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Modern chromatics. 

Cornell University Library 

3 1924 031 167 889 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 924031 1 67889 



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It was not my intention to write a preface to this 
book, as I have usually found such compositions neither 
instructive nor amusing. On presenting the manuscript 
to my publishers, however, it was suggested that, al- 
though prefaces are of no particxdar use to readers, yet 
from a certain point of view they are not without value. 

I accordingly beg leave to state that my object in this 
M'ork has been to present, in a clear, logical, and if possi- 
ble attractive form, the fundamental facts connected with 
our perception of colour, so far as they are at present 
known, or concern the general or artistic reader. For 
the explanation of these facts, the theory of Thomas 
Young, as modified and set forth by Helmholtz and 
Maxwell, has been consistently adhered to. The whole 
class of musical theories, as well as that of Field, have 
been discarded, for reasons that are set forth in the text. 

Turning now from the more purely scientific to the 
sesthetic side of the subject, I will add that it has been 
my endeavour also, to present in a simple and comprehen- 
sible manner the underlying facts upon which the artistic 
use of colour necessarily depends. The possession of these 


facts will not enable people to become artists ; but it may 
to some extent prevent ordinary persons, critics, and even 
painters, from talking and writing about colour in a loose, 
inaccurate, and not always rational manner. More than 
this is true : a real knowledge of elementary facts often 
serves to warn students of the presence of difficulties 
that are almost insurmountable, or, when they are already 
in trouble, points out to them its probable nature ; in 
short, a certain amount of rudimentary information 
tends to save useless labour. Those persons, therefore, 
who are really iuterested in this subject are iirged to 
repeat for themselves the various experiments indicated 
in the text. 

In the execution of this work it was soon found that 
many important gaps remained to be filled, and much 
tune has been consumed in original researches and ex- 
periments. The results have been briefly indicated in 
the text ; the exact means employed in obtaining them 
will be given hereafter in one of the scientific journals. 

To the above I may perhaps be allowed to add, that 
during the last twenty years I have enjoyed the great 
privilege of familiar intercourse with artists, and duriag 
that period have devoted a good deal of leisure time to 
the practical study of drawing and painting. 

O. K R. 




Transmission and Reflection op Light, 9 

Production of Colodk by Dispersion, . . , . 17 

Constants of Colour, . , .... 30 

Production of Colour by Interference and Polabization, . 43 

Colours of Opalescent Media, .53 

Production of Colour by Fluorescence and Phosphorescence, . 62 

Production of Colour by Absorption, . . 65 

Abnormal Perception of Colour and Colour-blindness, 92 

Toung's Theory op Coloitr, 108 




Mixture of Colours, . . . . 124 

Complementary Colours, . . . ■ . 161 


Effects produced on Colour by a Change in Luminosity and by 
MIXING it with White Light, 181 

Duration of the Impression on the Retina, .... 202 

Modes of arranging Colours in Systems, .... 209 

Contrast, ... . . . . 235 


The Small Interval and Gradation, . . . 2'73 


Combinations of Colours in Pairs and Triads, . . .286 

Painting and Decoration 305 

Note on two recent Theories op Colour, 324 

Index, ... 326 




As long ago as 1795 it occurred to a German physicist 
to subject tlie optic nerve of the living eye to the influence 
of the newly discovered voltaic current. The result obtained 
was curious : the operation did not cause pain, as might 
have been expected, but a bright flash of light seemed to 
pass before the eye. This remarkable experiment has since 
that time been repeated in a great variety of ways, and 
with the help of the more efiicient electric batteries of mod- 
ern times; and not only has the original result of Pfaff been 
obtained, but bright red, green, or violet, and other hues 
have been noticed by a number of distinguished physicists. 
If, instead of using the electrical current, mechanical force 
be employed, that is, if pressure be exerted on the living 
eye, the optic nerve is again stimulated, and a series of bril- 
liant, changing, fantastic figures seem to pass before the 
experimenter. All these appearances are distinctly visible 
in a perfectly dark room, and prove that the sense of vision 
can be excited without the presence of light, the essential 
point being merely the stimulation of the optic nerve. In 
the great majority of instances, however, the stimulation of 
the optic nerve is brought about, directly or indii'ectly, by the 


aid of light ; and in the present work it is principally with 
vision produced in this normal manner that we have to deal. 
Back in the rear portion of the eye there is spread out a 
delicate, highly complicated tissue, consisting of a wonder- 
fully fine network woven of minute blood-vessels and 
nerves, and interspersed with vast numbers of tiny atoms, 
which under the microscope look like little rods and cones. 
This is the retina ; its marvellous tissue is in some mysteri- 
ous manner capable of being acted on by light, and it is 
from its substance that those nerve-signals are transmitted 
to the brain which awake in us the sensation of vision. 
For the sake of brevity, the interior globular surface of the 
retina is ordinarily called the seat of vision. An eye pro- 
vided only with a retina would still have the capacity for 
a certain kind of vision ; if plunged in a beam of red or 
green light, for example, these colour-sensations would be 
excited, and some idea might be formed of the intensity or 
purity of the original hues. Some of the lower animals 
seem to be endowed only with this rudimentary form of 
vision ; thus it has lately been ascertained by Bert that 
minute crustaceans are sensitive to the same colours of the 
spectrum which affect the eye of man, and, as is the case 
with him, the maximum effect is produced by the yellow 
rays. With an eye constructed in this simple manner it 
would, however, be impossible to distinguish the forms of ex- 
ternal objects, and usually not even their colours. We have, 
therefore, a set of lenses placed in front of the retina, and 
so contrived as to cast upon it very delicate and perfect 
pictures of objects toward which the eye is directed ; these 
pictures are coloured and shaded, so as exactly to match the 
objects from which they came, and it is by their action on 
the retina that we see. These retinal pictures are, as it 
were, mosaics, made up of an infinite number of points of 
light ; they vanish with the objects producing them — 
though, as we shall see, their effect lasts a little while after 
they themselves have disappeared. 


This leads us in the next place to ask, " What is light, 
that agent which is able to produce effects which to a 
thoughtful mind must always remain wonderful ? " A per- 
fectly true answer to this question is, that light is some- 
thing which comes from the luminous body to us ; in the 
act of vision we are essentially passive, and not engaged in 
shooting out toward the object long, delicate feelers, as was 
supposed by the ancients. This something was considered 
by Sir Isaac Newton to consist of fine atoms, too fine al- 
most to think of, but moving at the rate of 186,000 miles in 
a second. According to the undulatory theory, however, 
light consists not of matter shot toward us, but of undula- 
tions or waves, which reach our eyes somewhat in the same 
way as the waves of water beat on a rocky coast. 

The atoms, then, which compose a candle flame are 
themselves in vibration, and, communicating this vibratory 
movement to other particles with which they are in con- 
tact, generate waves, which travel out in all directions, like 
the circular waves from a stone dropped into quiet water ; 
these waves break finally upon the surface of the retina, 
and cause in some unexplained way the sensation of sight — 
we see the candle flame. Substances which are not seK- 
luminous cannot be seen directly or without help ; to ob- 
tain vision of them it is necessary that a self-luminous body 
also should be present. The candle flame pours out its 
flood of tiny waves on the objects in the room ; in the act 
of striking on them some of the waves are destroyed, but 
others rebound and reach the eye, having suffered certain 
changes of which we shall speak hereafter. 

This rebound of the wave we call reflection ; all bodies 
in the room reflect some of the candle light. Surfaces which 
are polished alter the direction of the waves of light falling 
on them, but they do not to any great extent scatter them 
irregularly, or in all directions. It hence follows that pol- 
ished surfaces, when they reflect light, present appearances 


totally unlike those furnislied by surfaces which, though 
smooth, are yet destitute of polish ; the former are apt to 
reflect very much or very little light, according to their 
positions, but this is not true to the same extent with un- 
polished surfaces. The power which difllerent substances 
have under various circumstances to reflect light is not 
without interest for us ; we shall see hereafter that this is 
a means often employed by nature in modifying colour. 

As a general thing polished metallic surfaces are the 
best reflectors of light, and may for the most part be con- 
sidered by the artist as reflecting all the light falling on 
them. Polished silver actually does reflect ninety-two per 
cent, of the light falling perpendicularly on it ; and though 
the percentages reflected by steel and other metals are 
smaller, yet the difference is not ordinarily and easUy dis- 
tinguished by an untrained eye. 

The case is somewhat different with smooth water : if 
light falls on it, making a small angle with its surface, the 
amount reflected is as large as that from a metallic surface ; 
while, if the light falls perpendicularly on it, less than four 
per cent, is reflected. Thus with a clear blue sky and 
smooth water we find that distant portions of its surface 
appear very bright, while those at the feet of the observer 
are of an almost unbelievable dark-blue tint. In this par- 
ticular instance, the difference between the brightness of 
near and distant portions of the water is still further exag- 
gerated by the circumstance that the sky overhead is less 
luminous than that near the horizon ; and the distant por- 
tions of the sheet of water reflect light which comes from 
the horizon, the nearer portions that which has its origin 
overhead. The reflecting power of water is constantly 
used by artists as a most admirable means of duplicating in 
a picture a chromatic composition, and easily affords an op- 
portunity, by slight disturbances of its surface, ior the 
introduction of variations on the original chromatic design. 

It may here be remarked that in actual landscapes con- 


taining surfaces of still water, it ordinarily happens that 
the reflected pictures are not exactly identical with those 
which are seen directly, and the difference may often be 
considerable. For example, it may easily be the case that 
an object beyond the water, and situated at some distance 
from it, is not seen in the reflected picture at all, light from 
it either not reaching the water, or reaching the water and 
not being reflected to the eye of the observer. 

Polished surfaces, as we have seen, reflect light not only 
in large quantity, but they as it were press the light well 
together in rather sharply defined masses ; with unpolished 
surfaces the case is entirely different, the light which falls 
on them being scattered in all directions. Hence, where- 
ever the eye is placed, it receives some of this light, and a 
change of position produces far less effect on the quantity 
received than is the case with light reflected from polished 
surfaces. Owing to their power of scattering light in all 
directions, rough surfaces, however situated, never send 
very intense light to the eye. 

If a surface of white linen drapery be illuminated by a 
dozen different sources, it will reflect to the eye a sample of 
each kind of light, and what we call its hue will be made 
up of as many constituents. When we remember that all 
the different objects in a room reflect some, and usually 
coloured light, we see that the final tint of our piece of linen 
drapery depends not only on the circumstance that its natu- 
ral colour is white, but also on the presence and proximity of 
curtains, books, chaii's, and a great variety of objects ; the 
final colour will hence not be exactly white, but some delicate, 
indescribable hue, difficult of imitation except by practiced 
artists. With objects which are naturally coloured, or which 
show colour when placed in white light, the case becomes 
still more complicated. Let us suppose that our drapery 
when placed in pure white light appears red ; its hue will 


still be modified by the light it receives from objects ia the 
room : for example, if it receives some green light from 
objects of this colour placed in its neighbourhood, the red 
hue will incline toward orange; if the added portion of 
light be yellow, the tendency to orange will be still more 
marked ; on the other hand, light received from blue or 
violet surfaces will cause the red to pass into crimson or 
even purple. The grandest illustrations of these changes 
we find in those cases where objects are illuminated simul- 
taneously by the yellow rays of the sun and the blue light 
of the clear sky : here, by this cause alone, the natural 
colours of objects are modified to a wonderful extent, and 
effects of magical beauty produced, which by their intricacy 
almost defy analysis. The nature of these changes will be 
considered in a subsequent chapter, after the principles upon 
which they depend have been examined. 

Finally, it may not be altogether out of place to add 
that the majority of paintings and chromatic designs are 
seen by the aid of light which they reflect in a diflfused way 
to the eye of the observer ; transparencies, designs in stained 
or painted glass, etc., are, on the other hand, seen by light 
which passes entirely through their substance before reach- 
ing the eye. Corresponding to this we find that by far the 
larger proportion of natural objects act upon om- visual 
organs by means of reflected light, while a few only are 
seen by a mixture of reflected and transmitted light. It 
hence follows that Nature and the painter actually employ, 
in the end, exactly the same means in acting on the eye of 
the beholder. This point, seemingly so trite, is touched 
upon, as an idea seems to prevail in the minds of many per- 
sons that Nature paints always with light, while the artist 
is limited to pigments : in point of fact, both paint with 
light, though, as we shall hereafter see, the total amount at 
the disposal of the painter is quite limited. 


In concluding this matter of reflection, we may perhaps 
be allowed to add that the term reflection is quite frequent- 
ly confused with shadow — the reflected image of trees on 
the edge of quiet water being often spoken-of as the shadows 
of trees on the water. The two cases are of course essen- 
tially different, a genuine, well-defined shadow on water 
scarcely occurring except in cases of turbidity. 

We have seen that all bodies reflect some of the light 
falling on them ; it is equally true that they transmit a 
certain portion. A plate of very pure glass, or a thin layer 
of pure water, will transmit all the light falling on it, ex- 
cept that which is reflected ; they transmit it unaltered in 
tint, and we say they are perfectly transparent and colour- 
less substances. Here we have one of the extremes ; the 
other may be found in some of the metals, such as gold or 
silver : it is only when they are reduced to very thin leaves 
that they transmit any light at all. Gold leaf allows a lit- 
tle light to pass through its substance, and tinges it bluish- 
green. Almost all other bodies may be ranged between 
these two examples ; none can be considered absolutely 
transparent, none perfectly opaque. And this is true not 
only in a strictly philosophical sense, but also in one that 
has an especial bearing on our subject. The great mass of 
objects with which we come in daily contact allow light to 
penetrate a little way into their substance, and then, turn- 
ing it back, reflect it outward in all directions. In this 
sense all bodies have a certain amount of transparency. 
The light which thus, as it were, just dips into their sub- 
stance, has by this operation a change impressed on it ; it 
usually comes out more or less coloured. It hence follows 
that, in most cases, two masses of light reach the eye : one, 
which has been superficially reflected with unchanged colour; 
and another, which, being reflected only after penetration, 
is modified in tint. Many beautiful effects of translucency 
are due to these and strictly analogous causes ; the play 


of colour on the surfaces of waves is made up largely of 
these two elements ; and in a more subdued way we find 
them also producing the less marked translucency of foliage 
or of flesh. 

One of the resources just mentioned the painter never 
employs : the light which is more or less regularly reflected 
from the outermost surface, he endeavours to prevent from 
reaching the eye of the beholder, except in minute quanti- 
ty, his reliance being always on the light which is reflected 
in an irregular and diffused way, and which has for the 
most part penetrated, first, some little distance into his 

The glass-stainer and glass-painter make use of the 
principle of the direct transmission of light for the display 
of their designs. Now, as painted or stained glass trans- 
mits enormously more light than pigments reflect in a prop- 
erly lighted room, it follows that the worker on glass has at 
his disposal a much more extensive scale of light and shade 
than the painter in oils or water-colours. Owing to this 
fact it is possible to produce on glass, paintings which, in 
range of illumination, almost rival Nature. The intensity 
and purity of the tints which can thus be produced by 
direct transmission are far in advance of what can be ob- 
tained by the method of reflection, and enable the designer 
on glass successfully to employ combinations of colour 
which, robbed of their brightness and intensity by being 
executed in oils or fresco, would no longer be tolerable. 



In the previous chapter we have seen that the sensation 
of sight is produced by the action of very minute waves on 
th& nervous substance of the retina ; that is to say, by the 
aid of purely mechanical movements of a definite character. 
When these waves have a length of about -5-5^57 •'^ ^^ inch, 
they produce the sensation which we call red — we see red 
light ; if they are shortened to xr^TTir of an inch, their ac- 
tion on us changes, they call up in us a different sensation 
— we say the light is coloured orange ; and as the lengths 
of the waves are continually shortened, the sensation passes 
into yellow, green, blue, and viplet. From this it is evident 
that colour is something which has no existence outside and 
apart from ourselves ; outside of ourselves there are merely 
mechanical movements, and we can easily imagine beings 
so constructed that the waves of light would never produce 
in them the sensation of colour at all, but that of heat. 

The colour-sensations just mentioned are not the only 
ones capable of being produced by the gradual diminution 
of the wave-length : between the red and orange we find 
every variety of orange-red and red-orange hue ; the or- 
ange, again, changes by a vast number of insensible steps 
into yellow, and so of all the other tints. Types of all 
colours possible, except the purples, could be produced by 
this method. The colours generated in this way would not 
only pass by the gentlest gradations into each other, form- 
ing a long scries of blending hues, but they would also be 



perfectly pure, and, if the light was bright, very intense. 
The advantage of providing, in the beginning of our colour 
studies, a set of tints possessiug these precious qualities, is 
evident without much argument. 

Now, white light consists of a mixture of waves pos- 
sessing every desirable degree of length, and it is only ne- 
cessary to select some instrument which is able to sort out 
for us the different kinds of light, and neatly arrange them 
side by side in an orderly series. Fortunately for us, we 
find in the glass prism a simple and inexpensive apparatus 
which is able to effect the desired analysis. "We may, Lf we 
are willing to take a little trouble, arrange matters so as to 

Fi&. 1. — ^Prismatic Spectrum. 

repeat the famous experiment made by Newton many years 
ago : viz., admit a small beam of sunlight into a darkened ' 
room, and allow it to fall on the prism, as indicated in Fig. 
1. We shall notice, by observing the illuminated path of 
the sunbeam, that the prism bends it considerably out of 
its course ; ajid, on tracing up this deflected portion, we 
shall find it no longer white, but changed into a long streak 
of pure and beautiful colours, which blend into each other 
by gentle gradations. If this streak of coloured light be 
received on a white wall, or, better, on a large sheet of 
white cardboard, the following changes in the colours can 


be noticed : It commences at one end with a dark-crimson 
hue, which gradually brightens as we advance along its 
length, changing at the same time into scarlet ; this runs 
into orange, the orange becomes more yellowish, and con- 
trives to convert itself into a yellowish-green without pass- 
ing noticeably into yellow, so that at first sight yellow does 
not seem to be present. The orange-yellow and greenish- 
yellow spaces are brighter than any of the others, but the 
rise in luminosity is so gradual that the difference is not 
striking, unless we compare these two colours with those at 
a considerable distance from them. As we pass on, the ten- 
dency to green becomes more decided, until finally a full 
green hue is reached. This colour is still pretty bright, 

I^a. 2.— Mode of isolating a Single Colour of the Prismatic Spectrum. 

and not inferior to the red in intensity ; by degrees it 
changes into a greenish-blue, which will not at first attract 
the attention ; next follows a full blue, not nearly so bright 
as the green, nor so striking ; this blue changes slowly into 
a violet of but little brightness, which completes the series. 
If we wish to isolate and examine these tints separately, 
we can again follow the example of Newton, by making a 
small, narrow aperture in our cardboard, and use it then as 
a screen to intercept all except the desired tint, as is indi- 
cated in Fig. 2. In this manner we can examine separate 


portions of our spectrum more independently, and escape 
from the overpowering influence of some of the more in- 
tense tints. Under these circumstances the greenish-hlue 
becomes quite marked, and the blue is able to assert itself 
to a greater degree ; but the yellow will not be greatly 
helped, for in fact it is confined to a very narrow region, 
and it is only by greatly magnifying the spectrum that we 
can obtain a satisfactory demonstration of its existence. 

These experiments, though very beautiful, are quite 
rough ; every two minutes the beam of sunlight strays 
away from the prism and needs again to be directed toward 
it ; and besides that, the colours blend into each other in 
such a subtile, puzzling way, that, without a scale or land- 
mark of some kind to separate them, it seems hopeless to 
undertake any exact experiments. In this diflSculty it is to 
the spectroscope that we must turn for aid ; it was certainly 
not originally contrived for such purposes as these, but 
nevertheless is just what we need. It is not necessary to. 
stop to describe the instrument, as this has been done by 
Professor Lommel in another volume of this series ; it is 
enough for us that it is a convenient instrument for sorting 
out the different kinds of light which fall on it, according 
to their wave-length, and that it performs this work far 
more accurately than a prism used according to Newton's 
plan. Just at this point we can take advantage of a sin- 
gular discovery made by Fraunhofer, and independently 
to some extent by Dr. Wollaston, early in the present cen- 
tury. These physicists found that when the coloured band 
of light just described is produced by a spectroscope, or 
by apparatus equivalent to jone, the band is really not con- 
tinuous, but is cut up crosswise into a great many small 
spaces. The dividing lines are called the fixed lines of the 
solar spectrum. Almost their sole interest for us is in the 
fact that they serve as admirable landmarks to guide us 
through the vague tracts of ill-defined colour. Fig. 3 shows 
the positions of some of the more important fixed lines of 



* It will be noticed that the term indigo, 
originally Introduced by Newton, haa been 
entirely rejected in thia work, and ultrama- 
rine aubatituted for it. Bezold auggested 
thia change aome time ago, baaing hia ob- 
jection to indigo on ita dingineaa ; the au- 
thor, however, finds a much more fatal ob- 
jection in the fact that indigo in solution, 
and as a pigment, ia a somewhat greenish- 
blue, being really identical with Prussian- 
blue in colour, only far blacker. In the 
dry atate thia tendency to greenneaa ia neu- 
tralized by the reddish tinge which the aub- 
Btanoe sometimes assumes : it was probably 
used by Newton in the dry state. A mix- 
ture of aix parta of artificial ultramarine- 
bluo, two parta white, and ninety-two parts 
black, when mingled according to the meth- 
od of Maxwell's disks, furnishes a colour 
quite like that of commercial indigo in the 
dry atate. 


the spectrum. The figure is based on measurements made 
by the author on a flint-glass prism, 
with aid of a large spectroscope, 
or rather spectrometer, admirably 
constructed by Wm. Grunow, of 
New York. At the same time a 
series of observations was made 
on the extent of the coloured 
spaces in the spectrum ; these are 
indicated in the figure, and ac- 
curately given in one of the ta- 
bles that follow.* Let us sup- 
pose that the spectrum from A to 
H includes 1,000 parts ; then the 
following table indicates the po- 
sitions of the fixed lines : 

* Eed-oran^e. 




> and 

Green and 

» Cyan-blue. 

V Blue and 
/ Blue-violet. 

> Violet 

Fio. 8.— Fixed Lines and Coloured 
Spaces of FriBuiatic Spectrum. 



Fixed Likes of the Pkismatic Spectrum. 



C... 112-'71 

D 220-31 


E 363-11 

6 389-85 

F 493-22 


n 1000-00 

The next table gives the positions of the coloured spaces 
in this spectrum, according to the observations of the author : 

Oolouked Spaces in the Pkismatic SPEOTEtiM. 

Red begins at 

Red ends, orange-red begins at 149 

Orange-red ends, orange begins at 194 

Orange ends, orange-yellow begins at 210 

Orange-yellow ends, yellow begins at 230 

Yellow ends, greenish-yellow begins at 240 

Tellow-greeB ends, green begins at 344 

Blue-green ends, cyan-blue begins at 447 

Cyan-blue ends, blue begins at 495 

Violet-blue ends, violet begins at 806 

Violet ends at ■ 1,000 

The space out beyond is occupied by a very dark red, 
which has a brown or chocolate colour, and outside of the 
violet beyond 1,000 is. a faint greyish colour, -which has been 
called lavender. 

The third table shows the spaces occupied in the pris- 
matic spectrum by the several colours : 

Red , 149 

Orange-red 45 

Orange X6 

Orange-yellow , _ _ 20 

Yellow IQ 

Greenish-yellow and yellowish-green 104 

Green and blue-green IO3 

Cyan-blue 48 

Blue and blue-viol<et 311 

"Violet 194 



In making these observations, matters were arranged so 
that only a narrow slice of the spectrum presented itself to 
the observer ; thus its hues could be studied in an isolated 
condition, and the misleading effects of contrast avoided. 
The figures given in the two latter tables are the mean of 
from fifteen to twenty observations. The hues of the spec- 
tral colours change very considerably with their luminosity ; 
hence for these experiments an illumination was selected 
such that it was only comfortably bright in the most lumi- 
nous portions of the spectrum, and this arrangement re- 
tained as well as possible afterward. 

The colours as seen in the spectroscope really succeed 
each other in the order of their wave-lengths, the red hav- 
ing the greatest wave-length, the violet the least. But the 
glass prism does this work in a way which is open to criti- 
cism ; it crowds together some portions of the series of tints 
more than is demanded by their difference in wave-lengths ; 
other portions it expands, assigning to them more room 
than they have a right to claim. Thjis the red, orange, 
and yellow spaces are cramped together, while the blue and 
violet tracts stretch out interminably. Taking all this into 
consideration, it may be worth while to go one step further, 
and, without abandoning the use of the spectroscope, re- 
place its prism by a diffraction grating, or plate of glass 
ruled with very fine, parallel, equidistant lines, such as have 
been made by the celebrated Nobert, and lately of still 
superior perfection by Rutherfurd. In Lommel's work, 
previously referred to, the mode in which a plate of this 
kind produces colour is explained ; at present it is enough to 
know that the general appearance of the spectacle will be 
unchanged ; the same series of colours, the same fixed lines, 
will again be recognized ; but in this new spectrum all the 
tints will be arranged in an equable manner with reference 
to wave-length. According to this new allotment of spaces, 
the yellow will occupy about the centre of the spectrum, 


tlie red and different kinds of orange taking up more room 
than formerly; the dimensions of the blue and violet will 
he greatly reduced. 

Let us suppose, as before, that the spectrum from A to 
H includes 1,000 parts ; then the following table, which is 
calculated from the observations of Angstrom, will indi- 
cate the positions of the principal fixed lines : 

Fixed Lines in the Nokmal Spectrum. 


a llS-n 

B 201-61 

C 285-05 

D 468-38 

E 688-92 

b eei-M 

F '?49-24 

G 90207 

H ....1000-00 

The next table gives the positions of the coloured spaces 
in the normal spectrum, according to the observations of 
the author : 

Coloured Spaces in the Normal Spectrum. 

Red begins at 

Pure red ends, orange-red begins at 330 

Orange-red ends, orange begins at 434 

Orange fends, orange-yellow begins at 459 

Orange-yeUow ends, yellow begins at 485 

Tellow ends, greenish-yellow begins at 498 

Yellow-green ends, full green begins at ; . . . 596 

Full green ends, blue-green begins at 682 

Blue-green ends, cyan-blue begins at 698 

Cyan-blue ends, blue begins at 749 

Blue ends, violet-blue begins at 823 

Blue-violet ends, pure violet begins at 940 

The following table exhibits the spaces occupied by the 
several colours in the normal spectrum : 

Pure red 830 

Orange-red 104 

Orange 25 

Orange-yellow 26 



Yellow IS 

Greenish-yellow and yellow-green . 9"? 

Full green 87 

Blue-green 16 

Cyan-blue 51 

Blue 74 

Violet-blue and blue-violet 117 

Pure violet 60 


Fig. 4 shows the normal 
spectrum with fixed lines and 
coloured spaces, corresponding 
to the tables just given. 

If these tables are compared 
with those obtained by the aid 
of a prism of glass, it will be 
seen that the fixed lines and 
coloured spaces are arranged 
somewhat differently; the 
main cause of this difference 
has already been pointed out. 
When, however, we compare 
the spacing of the colours in 
the two spectra, it is also to be 
remembered that it is affected 
by another circumstance, viz., 
the distribution of the lumi- 
nosity in the two spectra does 
not agree, and this influences, 
as will be shown in Chapter 
XII., the appearance of the 
colours themselves ; very lu- 
minous red, for example, as- 
suming an orange hue, very 
dark blue tending to appear 
violet, etc. The normal spectrum employed by the autho 

. Eed. 

. Orange-red. 

■ Orange. 
. Orange-yellow. 

■ Yellow. 


■ and 

■ Green. 

• Blue-green. 
. Cyan-blue. 

. Blue. 



Fig. 4. — Fixed Lines and Coloured 
Spaces of Normal Spectrum. 


was obtained by using a superb plate for which he was 
indebted to Mr. Rutherfurd. The plate contained nearly 
19,000 lines to the English inch, and was silvered on the 
back, so that the colours were as bright as those from a 
glass prism. The spectrum selected for use was nearly six 
times as long as that furnished by the glass prism — a cir- 
cumstance, of course, that favoured accurate observation. 

The tables that have just been given enable us very 
easily to calculate the lengths of the waves of light, cor- 
responding to the centres of the coloured spaces in the nor- 
mal spectrum. It is only necessary to ascertain the number 
corresponding, for example, to the centre of the red space, 
then to multiply it by 3'653, and to subtract the product 
from 7,603 : the result will be the wave-length correspond- 
ing to that part of the normal spectrum, expressed in ten- 
millionths of a millimetre. The following table contains 
the wave-lengths corresponding to the centres of the col- 
oured spaces : 

I U.OUO,(Tu u MM. 

Centre of red V,000 

" orange-red , 6,208 

" orange , 5,972 

" orange-yellow 5,8'79 

" yellow '. 5,808 

" full green 5,271 

" blue-green 5,082 

" cyan-blue 4,960 

" blue 4,732 

" violet-blue 4 383 

" pure violet 4 059 

The results here given differ somewhat from those obtained 
by Listing in 1867 ; the differences are partly due to the 
terms employed ; the author, for example, dividing up into 
orange-red, orange, and orange-yellow, a space which is 
called by Listing simply orange. According to the author 


cyan-blue falls on the red side of the line F ; it is placed 
by Listing, however, on the violet side of this line. Other 
less important differences might be mentioned ; but, as a dis- 
cussion of them would be out of place in a work like the 
present, the curious reader is referred for further informa- 
tion to Listing's paper.* 

A little study of the normal spectrum, Fig. 4, will enable 
us to answer some interesting questions. We have already 
seen that change in colour is always accompanied by change 
in the length of the waves of light producing it ; hence if we 
begin at one end of our normal spectrum where the colour 
is red, and the length of the waves equal to 7,603 ten- 
millionths of a millimetre, as we diminish this length, we 
expect to see a corresponding change in the colour of the 
light : small changes we anticipate will produce small effects 
on the colour, large changes greater effects. 

Now, the question arises whether equal changes of wave- 
length actually are accompanied by equal alterations of hue 
in all parts of the spectrum. To take an example : in pass- 
ing from the orange-yellow, through the pure yellow and 
greenish-yellow well into the yellow-green region, we find 
it necessary to shorten our wave-length about 400 of our 
units ; now will an equal curtailment in other regions of the 
spectrum carry us through as many changes of hue ? The 
answer to this is not exactly what we might expect. In a 
great part of the red region a change of this kind produces 
only slight effects, the red inclining a little more or less to 
orange, and the same is true of the blue and violet spaces, 
the hue leaning only a little toward the blue or violet side, 
as the case may be. Hence it seems that the eye is far 
more sensitive to changes of wave-length in the middle 
regions of the spectrum than at either extremity. This 
circumstance, to say the least, is curious ; but, what is more 
to our purpose, it is a powerful argument against any theory 

* Poggendorfifs " Anualen," cxxxi., p. 564. 



of colour whicli is founded on supposed analogies with 
music. But more of this hereafter. 

In the prismatic spectrum and in our normal spectrum 
we found no representative of purple, or purplish tints. 
This sensation can not be produced by one set of waves 
alone, whatever their length may be ; it needs the joint 
action of the red and violet waves, or the red and blue. All 
other possible tints and hues find their type in some portion 
of the spectrum, and, as will be shown in the next chapter, 
this applies ' jast as well to the whole range of browns and 
greys, as to colonic like vermilion and ultramarine. 

We have seen that the mixture of long and short waves 
which compose white light can be analyzed by a prism into 
its original constituents : the long waves produce on us the 

Fig. 5.— Eecomposition of White Light. 

sensation that we call red, and, as we allow shorter and 
shorter waves to act on the eye, we experience the sensa- 
tions known as orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. 
"When, on the other hand, we combine or mix together these 
different kinds of light, we reproduce white light. There 
are a great many different ways of effecting this recom- 


position ; one of the most beautiful was contrived several 
years ago by Professor Eli Blake. Tlie spectrum is re- 
ceived on a strip of ordinary looking-glass, which is gently 
bent by the hands of the experimenter till it becomes some- 
what curved ; it then acts like a concave mirror, and can be 
made to concentrate all the coloured rays on a distant sheet 
of paper, as shown in Fig. 5. The spot where all the col- 
oured rays are united or mixed appears pure white. 



The tints produced by Nature and art are so manifold, 
often so vague and indefinite, so affected by their environ- 
ment, or by the illumination under which they are seen, 
that at first it might well appear as though nothing about 
them were constant ; as though they had no fixed proper- 
ties which could be used in reducing them to order, and in 
arranging in a simple but vast series the immense multitude 
of which they consist. 

Let us examine the matter more closely. We have seen 
that when a single set of waves acts on the eye a colour- 
sensation is produced, which is perfectly well defined, and 
which can be indicated with precision by referring it to 
some portion of the spectrum. We have also found that 
when waves of light, having all possible lengths, act on the 
eye simultaneously, the sensation of white is produced. 
Let us suppose that by the first method a definite colour- 
sensation is generated, and afterward, by the second meth- 
od, the sensation of white is added to it : white light is 
added to or mixed with coloured light. This mixture may 
be accomplished by throwing the solar spectrum on a large 
sheet of white paper, and then casting on the same sheet of 
paper the white light which is reflected from a silvered 
mirror, or from an unsilvered plate of glass. Fig. 6 shows 
the arrangement. By moving the mirror M, Fig. 6, the 
white band of light may be made to travel slowly over the 
whole spectrum, and thus furnish a series of mixtures of 


white light with the various prismatic hues. The general 
effect of this proceeding will be to diminish the action of 
the coloured light ; the mixtui'e will indeed present to the 
eye more light, but it will be paler ; the colour-element will 
begin to be pushed into the background. Conversely, if 
we now should subject our mixture of white and coloured 
light to analysis by a second prism, we should infallibly 
detect the presence of the white as well as of the coloured 
light ; or, if no white light were present, that would also 

Fio. 6.— Mode of mixing White LigM with the Colours of the Spectrum. 

be equally apparent. Taking all this into consideration, it 
is evident that, when a particular colour is presented to us, 
we can affirm that it is perfectly pure ; viz., entirely free 
from white light, or that it contains mingled with it a 
larger or smaller proportion of this foreign element. This 
furnishes us with our first clue toward a classification of 
colours : our pure standard colours are to be those found in 
the spectrum ; the coloured light coming from the surfaces 
of natural objects, or from painted surfaces, we must com- 
pare with the hues of the. spectrum. If this is done, in al- 
most every case the presence of more or less white light 
will be detected ; in the great majority of instances its 


preponderance over the coloured light will be found quite 
marked. To illustrate by an example : if -white paper be 
painted with vermilion, and compared with the solar spec- 
trum, it will be noticed that it corresponds in general hue 
with a certain portion of the red space ; but- the two coloui-s 
never match perfectly, that from the paper always appear- 
ing too pal.e. K, now, white light be added to the pure 
spectral- tint, by reflecting a small amount of it from the 
mirror (Fig. 6), it will become possible to match the two 
colours ; and, if we know how much white light has been 
added, we can afterward say that the light reflected from 
the vermilion consists, for example, of eighty per cent, of 
red light from such a region of the spectrum, mixed with 
twenty per cent, of white light. If we make the experi- 
ment with a surface painted with " emerald green," we 
shall obtain about the same result, while we shall find that 
artificial ultramarine-blue, reflects about twenty-five per 
cent, of white light. In all of these cases the total amount 
of light reflected by the coloured paper is of course taken 
as 100, and the results here given are to be regarded only 
as approximations. In every case some white light is sure 
to be present ; its effect is to soften the colour and reduce its 
action on the eye ; when the proportion of white is very 
large, only a faint reminiscence of the original hue remains : 
we say the tint is greenish-grey, bluish-grey, or reddish- 
grey. If one part of red light is mixed with sixteen parts 
of white light, the mixture appears of a pale pinkish hue. 
The specific effects produced by the mixture of white with 
coloured light will be considered in Chapter XII. ; it is 
enough for us at present to have obtained an idea of one of 
the constants of colour, viz., its purity. The same word, it 
may- be observed, is often used by artists in an entirely dif- 
ferent sense : they will remark of a painting that it is no- 
ticeable for the purity of its colour, meaning only that the 
tints in it have no tendency to look dull or dirty, but not at 
all implying the absence of white or grey light. 


Next let us suppose that in our study of these matters 
we have presented to us for examination two coloured sur- 
faces, which we find reflect in hoth cases eight tenths red 
light and two tenths white light. In spite of this, the tints 
may not match, one £i£ them being much brighter than the 
other ; containing, perhaps, twice as much red light and 
twice as much white light ; having, in other words, twice 
as great brightness or luminosity. The only mode of caus- 
ing the tints to match will be to expose the darker-coloured 
surface to a stronger light, or the brighter surface to one 
that is feebler. It is evident, then, that brightness or lumi- 
nosity is one of the properties by which we can define col- 
our ; it is our second colour-constant. This word luminos- 
ity is also often used by artists in an entirely different sense, 
they calling colour in a painting luminous simply because it 
recalls to the mind the impression of light, not because it 
actually reflects much light to the eye. The term " bi-ight 
colour " is sometimes used in a somewhat analogous sense 
by them, but the ideas are so totally different that there is 
little risk of confusion. 

The determination of the second constant is practicable 
in some cases ; it presents itself always in the shape of a 
difficult photometric problem. The relative brightness of 
the colours of the solar spectrum is one of the most inter- 
esting of these problems, as its solution would serve to give 
some idea of the relative brightness of the colours which, 
taken together, constitute white light. Quite recently a 
set of measurements was made in different regions of the 
spectrum by Vieror(Jt, who referred the points measured to 
the fixed lines, as is usual in such studies.* Reducing his 
designations of the different regions of the spectrum to 
those of our spectral chart, which includes 1,000 parts from 
A to H (see previous chapter), and supplying the colours 
from the observations of the present writer, we obtain the 
following table : 

* 0. Vierordt, Poggendorff'a " Annalen," Band cxxxvii., S. 200. 



Table showing the Luminosity of Different Regions op the Prismatic 





From 40-5 to 



Dark red. 

" 104-5 " 



Pure red. 

" 112-'n " 




" 158-5 " 




" 189 



Orange and orange-yellow. 

" 220-31 " 




" 231-5 " 



Greenish-yellow, yellow-green, and green. 

" 389-85 " 



Blue-green and cyan-blue. 

" 493-22 " 




" 623-5 " 



TJltramarine (artificial). 

" 753-58 " 




" 896-5 " 




The author finds that -with the aid of rotating disks the 
second, constant can often be determined.* Let us suppose 
that we -wish to determine the luminosity of paper painted 
■with vermilion : a circular disk, ahout six inches in diame- 
ter, is cut from the paper and placed on a rotation apparatus, 
as indicated in Fig. 7. On the same axis is fastened a double 
disk of black and of -white paper, so arranged that the pro- 
portions of the black and -white can be varied at -will.f When 
the -whole is set in rapid rotation, the colour of the vermilion 
paper -will of course not be altered, but the black and white 
-will blend into a grey. This grey can be altered in its 
brightness, till it seems about as luminous as the red (Fig. 
8). If we find, for example, that -with the disk three quar- 
ters black and one quarter white an equality appears to be 
established, we conclude that the luminosity of our red sur- 
face is twenty-five per cent, of that of the white paper. This 

* " American Journal of Science and Arts," February, 1878. 
■f See Maxwell's " Disks," chapter x. 



is of course based on the assumption that the black paper 
reflects no light ; it actually does reflect from two to six 
per cent., the reflecting power of white paper being put at 
100. The black disk used by the author reflected 5-2 per 

Fig. 7.— Coloured Disk, with Small Blaok-and-White I 


White Disk in Kotation. 

cent, of white light ; to meet this a correction was intro- 
duced, and a series of measurements made, some of the more 
important of which are given in the following table : 


White paper 100 

Vermilion (English)* 25'7 

Pale chrome-yellow f 803 

Pale emerald-green* 48'6 

Cobalt-blue t 36-4 

Ultramarine J: 1-6 

These results were afterward tested by the use of a set 
of disks, the colours of which were complementary to those 
mentioned in the table, and these additional experiments 
and calculations showed that the original measurements 
differed but little from the truth. This agreement proved 
also the correctness of Grassmann's assumption, that the total 

* la thick paste, f Washed on as a water-colour. % Artificial, as a 


intensity of the mixture of masses of differently coloured 
'ligtt is equal to the sum of the intensities of the separate 

But to resume our search for colour-constants. We may 
meet with two portions of coloured light having the same 
degree of purity and the same apparent brightness, which 
nevertheless appear to the eye totally different : one may 
excite the sensation of blue, the other that of red ; we say 
the hues are entirely different. The hue of the colour is, 
then, our third and last constant, or, as the physicist would 
say, the degree of refrangibility, or the wave-length of the 
light. In the preceding chapter it has been shown that the 
spectrum offers all possible hues, except the purples, weU 
arranged in an orderly series, and the purples themselves 
can be produced with some trouble, by causing the blue or 
violet of the spectrum to mingle in certain proportions with 
the red. 

Fis. 9.— Eye-piece with Dalton's Scale. 

For the determination of the hue, an ordinary one-prism 
spectroscope can be used ; it is only necessary to add a little 
contrivance which enables the observer to isolate at will any 



small portion of tlie spectrum. TMs object is easily at- 
tained by introducing into tbe eye-piece of the instrument 

Fia. 10. — BufherfUrd's Automatlo Spectroscope. 

a- diaphragm perforated by a very narrow slit (see Fig. 9). 
The observer then sees in the upper part of the field of view 
the selected spectral colour ; in the lower part of the field 
the scale is visible, and with its aid the precise position of 
the prismatic hue can be determined. Instead of using a 



scale divided into equal parts, it is often advantageous to 
employ the plan suggested by Dr. J. C. Dalton, and used 
by him for determining the position of certain absorption 
bands. Dr. Dalton employs as a scale a minute photograph 
which shows the positions of the fixed lines, and divides up 
the spaces between them conveniently. Fig. 9 exhibits the 
appearance of the field of view and the scale. For more 
accurate work Rutherfurd's automatic six-prism spectro- 
scope can be employed (see Fig. 10*). A diffraction grat- 
ing can also be used — in those cases where the student of 
colour is so fortunate as to possess one.f With a very per- 
fect grating of this kind, for which the author was indebted 
to Mr. Rutherfurd, the third constant was determined for a 
number of coloured disks. The following table gives their 
positions in a normal spectrum haviug from A to H 1,000 
parts ; the corresponding wave-lengths are also given : 

Name of the Colour. 

Vermilion (English) 

Red lead 

Pale chrome-yellow 




Ultramarine (genuine) 

Ultramarine (artificial) 

Same, washed^ With Hoffmann's Tiolet 
B. B .\ 

Position in tlie 
Normal Spectram. 



Wave-length . 
11 Tsoiresire ™™- 



We have seen that the first colour-constant has reference 
to the purity of the colour, or indicates the relative amount 
of white light mixed with it. This constant is in all cases 

* Fig. 10 is a facsimile of Rutherfurd's drawing of his six-prism spec- 
troscope ("American Journal of Science and Arts," 1865), 
f See Chapter iv. for an account of the grating. 


difficult to determine ; probably something might be effected 
by carrying out practically the idea suggested in Pig. 6, by 
making the necessary additions to the apparatus there in- 
dicated. It would be necessary to measure the relative 
luminosity of the selected spectral hue and the white light, 
and then to mix them in proper proportions, till the mixture 
matched the colour of the painted paper, etc. The second 
and third colour-constants can be more easily determined. 

It may be well here to refer to the terms used to indicate 
these constants. For the first constant, the word purity, in 
the sense of freedom from white light (or from the sensa- 
tion of white), is well adapted. The term luminosity will 
be employed in this work to indicate the second constant ; 
the third constant will generally be referred to by the term 
hue. Colours are often also called intense, or saturated, 
when they excel both in purity and luminosity ; for it is 
quite evident that, however pure the coloured light may be, 
it still will produce very little effect on the eye if its total 
quantity be small ; on the other hand, it is plain that its 
action on the same organ will not be considerable, if it is 
diluted with much white light. Purity and luminosity are, 
then, the factors on which the intensity or saturation de- 
pends. We shall see hereafter that this is strictly true only 
within certain limits, and that an inordinate increase of 
luminosity is attended with a loss of intensity of hue or 

Having defined the three constants of colour, it will be 
interesting to inquire into the sensitiveness of the eye in 
these directions. This subject has been studied by Aubert, 
who made an extensive set of observations with the aid of 
coloured disks.* It was found that the addition of one 
part of white light to 360 parts of coloui'ed light produced 
a change which was perceptible to the eye ; smaller amounts 
failed to bring about this result. It was also ascertained 

* Aubert, " Physiologie der Netzhaut," Breslau, 1866. 


that- mingling the coloured light of a disk with from 120 to 
180 parts of white light (from white paper) caused it to be- 
come imperceptible, the hue being no longer distinguishable 
from that of the paper.* Differences in luminosity as small 
as -j^ to ilir could also, under favourable circumstances, be 
perceived. It hence followed that irregularities in the illu- 
mination, or distribution of pigment over a surface, which 
were smaller than yfj- of the total amount of light reflected, 
could no longer be noticed by the eye. Experiments with , 
red, orange, and blue disks were made on the sensitiveness 
of the eye to changes of hue or wave-length ; thus, the 
combination of the blue disk with a minute portion of the 
red disk altered its hue, moving it a little toward violet ; 
on reversing the case, or adding a little blue to the red disk, 
the hue of the latter moved in the direction of purple.f 
Similar combinations were made with the other disks. Au- 
bert ascertained in this way that recognizable changes of 
hue could be produced, by the addition of quantities of 
coloured light, as small as from -j-J^ to ^^ of the total 
amount of light involved. From such data he calculated 
that in a solar spectrum at least a thousand distinguishable 
hues are visible. But we can ^till recognize these hues, 
when the light producing them is subjected to considerable 
variation in luminosity. Let us limit ourselves to 100 
slight variations, which we can produce by gradually in-, 
creasing the brightness of our spectrum, tUl it finally is 
five times as luminous as it originally was. This will fur- 
nish us with a hundred thousand hues, differing perceptibly 
from each other. If each of these hues is again varied 

* To obtain correct results it is of course necessary to know the lumi- 
nosity of the coloured disk aa compared with the white disk, for in the above 
results by Aubert they are considered to be equal. With the aid of the 
table of luminosities previously given, this correction can be made, and it 
will be found that four or five times as much white light is actually neces- 
sary as is indicated above. 

f Compare Chapter x. 


twenty times, by the addition of different quantities of 
white light, it cames the number of tints we are able to 
distinguish up as high as two millions. In this calculation 
no account is taken of the whole series of purples, or of 
colours which are very luminous or very dark, or mixed 
with much white light. 

To the above we may add that interesting experiments 
on the sensitiveness of the eye to the different spectral 
colours have also been made by Charles Pierce, who found 
that the photometric susceptibility of the eye was the same 
for all colours. (See "American Journal of Science and 
Arts," April, 1877.) 

With the aid of Vierordt's measurements previously 
given, and the determinations by the author of the spaces 
occupied by the different colours in the spectrum, a very 
interesting point can now be settled, viz. : we can ascertain 
in what proportions the different colours are present in 
white light. The amount of red light, for example, which 
is present will evidently be equal to the space which it oc- 
cupies in the spectrum, multiplied by its luminosity, and 
the same will be true of all the other colours. The author 
constructed a curve representing Vierordt's results, and 
from this, taken in combination with his own determina- 
tions of the extent of the coloured spaces, obtained the 
following table : 

Table showing the Amounts or Coloured Light in 1,000 Pakis of White 

Red 54 

Orange-red 140 

Orange 80 

Orange-yellow 114 

Yellow 84 

Greenish-yellow 206 

Yellowish-green 121 

Green and blue-green 134 

Cyan-blue. 32 


Blue ,■•■ 40 

Ultramarine and blue-violet 20 

Violet 5 


Artists are in the habit of dividiag up colours into warm 
and cold. Now, if we draw the dividing line so as to in- 
clude among the warm colours red, orange-red, orange, 
orange-yeUow, yellow, greenish-yellow, and yellowish-green, 
then in white light the total luminosity of the warm colours 
will he rather more than three times as great as that of the 
cold colours. If we exclude from the list of warm colours 
yellowish-green, then they will be only about twice as 
luminous as the cold. We shall make use of this table 

It may have seemed strange that the chrome-yellow 
paper previously mentioned reflected eighty per cent, of 
light (the reflecting power of white paper being 100), while 
the table just given states that white light contains only a 
little more than five per cent, of pure yellow light. It will, 
however, be shown in a future chapter that chrome-yellow 
really reflects not only the pure yellow rays, but also the 
orange-yellow and greenish-yellow, besides much of the red, 
orange, and green light. By mixture, all these colours 
finally make a yellow, as will be explained in Chapter X. 
The high luminosity of some of the other coloured papers 
is to be explained in a similar manner. 



Iw Chapter II. we studied the spectral tints produced by 
a prism and by a grating ; these were found to be pure and 
brilliant as well as very numerous, and consequently were 
adopted as standards for comparison. Most nearly allied 
to these central normal colours are those which are pro- 
duced by the polarization of light. In this class we meet 
with a far greater variety of hues than is presented by the 
solar spectrum ; and, instead of a simple arrangement of 
delicately shading bands, we encoxmter an immense variety 
of chromatic combinations, sometimes worked out with ex- 
quisite beauty, but as often arranged in a strange fantastic 
manner, that suggests we have entered a new world of 
colour, which is ruled over by laws quite different from 
those to which we have been accustomed. And it is indeed 
so ; the tints and their arrangement depend on the geo- 
metrical laws which build up the crystal out of its mole- 
cules, and on the retardation which the waves of light ex- 
perience in sweeping through them, so that in the colours 
of polarization we see, as it were, Nature's mathematical 
laws laying aside for a moment their stiff awkwardness, and 
gayly manifesting themselves in play. 

The apparatus necessary for the study of these fasci- 
nating and often audacious colour-combinations is not 
necessarily complicated or very expensive. A simple form 



of polariscope is shown in Fig. 11. It consists merely of 
a plate of window-glass at P, which is so placed that the 
angle, a, is 33° as nearly as possible ; at N is a Nicol's 
prism, and at L a plano-convex lens with a focal length of 
about an inch. The distance of the prism from the plate 

Fig. 11.— Simpio Polarizing Apparatus. 

of glass is ten inches ; the lens is removable at .pleasure, 
the Nicol's prism is capable of revolving around its longer 
axis. If, now, light from a white cloud be reflected from 
the plate of glass toward the Nicol's prism, as indicated by 
the arrow, some of it will ordinarily traverse the prism and 
reach the eye at E ; the prism -should now be turned till 
this light is cut off, and the instrument is then ready for 
use. Thin slips of selenite or crystals of tartaric acid 
placed at 8, so that they are magnified, display the colours 
of polarization very beautifully. The arrangement just 
described constitutes a simple polarizing microscope ; if a 
compound polarizing microscope can be obtained, it will be 
still more easy to study the colours and combination of 
colours presented by the crystals bf many different salts. 
By dissolving a grain or two of the substance in a drop of 
watet, and allowing it to crystallize out on a slip of glass, it 
is possible very easily to make objects suitable for exami- 

Thin plates of selenite, obtained by removing successive 
layers with a penknife, answer admirably if we wish to 
study the phenomena of chromatic polarization in their 
simplest forms. It will often be found that nearly the 


whole plate presents a single unshaded hue, which bears a 
close resemblance to a patch of colour taken from some por- 
tion of the spectrum. But, however bright the colour may 
be, it is never free from an admixture of white light, and 
it is the constant presence of this foreign element which 
causes the colours of polarization to appear a little less in- 
tense than those of the spectrum. With plates which are 
somewhat thicker the proportion of white light increases, 
washing out the colour, till only a faint reminiscence of it 
is left. The more powerful tints, however, quite equal and 
probably surpass in purity — that is, in freedom from white 
light — the most intense sunset hues. Among these colours 
we find many shades of red and purple-red ; all the red- 
orange hues are represented, and the same is true of the 
other colours found in the spectrum. Besides, there is a 
range of purples which bridges over the chasm between the 
violets and reds ; faint rose-tints are also present in abun- 
dance, and the same is true of the pale greens and bluish- 
greens. In addition to this, quite thin slips furnish a dis- 
tinct set of tints which are peculiar in appearance, and 
which, when once seen, are never forgotten ; a singular 
tawny yellow will be noticed in combination with a bluish- 
grey ; the yellow, such as it is, shading into an orange 
nearly allied to it, and this again into a brick-red ; black 
ai.d white will be associated with these subdued tints ; the 
general impression produced by these combinations being 
sombre if not dreary. 

These slips of selenite furnish neither beautiful nor com- 
plicated patterns, the tints being for the most part arranged 
in parallel bands, with here and there angular patches, often 
in sharp contrast with the other masses of colour. There is 
no noticeable attempt at chromatic composition, except per- 
haps a little along fractured edges, where we frequently 
meet with pale grey or white deepening, into a fox-coloured 
yellow, followed by a red-violet, brightening into a sea- 
green dashed with pure ultramarine; or changing Suddenly 


into a full orange-yellow, after which may follow a broad 
field of purple. Just as often all the tints are pale, like 
those used on maps, with a narrow fringe on the edge, of 
rich variegated hues. The colour-combinations seldom rise 
into great beauty, though they often astonish and dazzle 
by their audacity and total disregard of all known laws of 
chromatic composition. The brilliancy and purity of these 
tints are so great, and they are laid on with such an unfal- 
tering hand, that all these wild freaks are performed com- 
paratively with impunity, and it is only when we proceed 
to make copies of these strange designs that we become 
fully aware of their peculiarities, and, from an artistic point 
of view, positive defects. 

Crystals of tartaric acid present phenomena which are 
quite different : here the patterns are rich and often beautiful; 
the colour is full of gradation, touched on and retouched 
and wrought out with patience in delicate, complicated 
forms, which echo or faintly oppose the grand ruling ideas 
of the composition. We may have a wonderfully shaped 
mass radiating in curved lines over the entu-e field, tinted 
with soft grey and pale yellow, with here and there dashes 
of colour like the spots on a peacock's tail, glowing like 
coals of fire ; all this being set off by very dark shades of 
olive-green, dark browns and greys. If the crystals are thin 
this is their appearance ; but as the thickness increases so 
does the brilliancy of the hues, which are sure to be well 
contrasted with large masses of deep shade. The soft gra- 
dations, the sharp contrasts, the brilliant and pale colours, 
the dark shadows and the wonderful forms, all combine to 
lend to these pictures a peculiar charm which is not wholly 
lost even in copies executed in ordinary pigments. 

Common sugar, if allowed time to crystallize out slowly, 
furnishes appearances somewhat resembling the above, but 
the designs are more formal and less interesting. Crystals 
of nitrate of potash present appearances, again, which are 
totally unlike those above mentioned ; here we have a great 


number of delicately tinted threads of light ; there will be 
purples and golden greens or dull olive-greens and carmines, 
woven together so closely as almost to produce a neutral 
tint, which will brighten suddenly and display combinations 
of pui-ple-red with green, dashed here and there with pure 
ultramarine. These tinted threads of light will be disposed 
with regularity as though it had been intended to weave 
them into some wonderful cashmere-like pattern, and then 
warp and woof had been suddenly abandoned and for- 

It would be useless to multiply these descriptions — every 
salt has its own peculiarities and suggests its own train 
of fancies ; some glow like coloured gems with polished 
facets, or bristle with golden spears like the advancing ranks 
of two hosts in conflict, or suggest a rich vegetation made 
of gold and jewels and bathed in sunset hues. Artists who 
see these exhibitions for the first time are generally very 
much impressed by their strange beauty, and not unfre- 
quently insist that their range of colour-conceptions has 
been enlarged. It has often seemed to the author that the 
cautious occasional study of some of these combinations 
might be useful to the decorator in suggesting new concep- 
tions of the possibilities within his reach. 

When polarized light is made to traverse crystals in the 
direction of -their optic axes, phenomena of a different kind 
are presented. They were discovered in 1813 by Brewster, 
and, on account of their scientific interest and a certain 
beauty, have since then greatly attracted the attention of 
physicists and even of mathematicians. A series of rainbow- 
like hues, disposed in concentric circles, is seen on a white 
field ; a dark-grey cross is drawn across the gayly coloured 
circles, and, after dividing them in four quadrants, fades 
out in the surrounding white field. By a slight change in 
the adjustment of the apparatus, the grey cross can be made 
white ; the rings then assume the complementary tints. 
Other crystals, again, furnish double sets of rings, the daris 


cross being shared by tliem jointly, or so altered in form as 
no longer to be recognizable. 

These appearances have been considered by many phys- 
icists to be extraordinarily beautiful ; it is, however, to be 
suspected that in this case the judgment was swayed by 
other considerations than those of mere beauty. The rarity 
of the phenomenon, the difficulty of exhibiting it; the bril- 
liant list of names identified with it, along with the insight 
it furnishes as to the molecular constitution of crystals, all 
combine to warp the judgment, and to seriously influence 
its final award. In point of fact, the formal nature of the 
figures, the constant repetition of the rainbow-tints in. the 
same set order, which is that of the spectrum, both exclude 
the possibility of the charming colour-combinations so fre- 
quently presented by many salts when simply crystallized 
on a 'slip of glass. The cross and rings are not for a mo- 
ment, in matter of beauty, to be compared with the appear- 
ances presented by crystals of tartaric acid. 

Glass which has been heated and then suddenly cooled, 
or glass which is under strain, exhibits phenomena of coloxir 
closely related to the above ; we have as it were a set of 
distorted crosses and rings which sometimes lend themselves 
more kindly to the production of chromatic effects than is 
the case with the normal figures. 

In ordinary life the colours of polarization are never 
seen ; the fairy world where they reign cannot be entered 
without other aid than the unassisted eye. This is not a 
matter for regret ; the purity of the hues and the audacious 
character of their combinations cause their gayety to appear 
strange and unnatural to eyes accustomed to the far more 
sombre hues appropriate to a world in which labour and 
trouble are such important and ever-present elements. The 
colours even of flowers have a thoughtful cast, when com- 
pared with those of polarization. 

The colours which have just been considered are pro- 
duced in a peculiar manner ; the complete explanation is 


long and tedious, and has for us no particular interest. The 
main idea, however, is this : white light is acted on in such 
a way that one of its constituents is suppressed ; the result 
is coloured light. For example, if we strike out from white 
light the yellow rays, what remains will produce on us the 
sensation of blue ; if we cut off the green rays, the remain- 
der will appear purple. The reason of this will be more 
fully appreciated after a study of the facts presented in 
Chapters XI. and XII. To effect this sifting out of certain 
rays a polarizing apparatus is employed ; when the crystals 
are removed from it, the colour instantly vanishes. Now, 
it so happens that there is a class of natural objects capable 
of displaying exactly the same hues without the intervention 
of any piece of apparatus — all objects that fulfill a certain 
condition may be reckoned in this class ; it is merely that 
their thickness should be very small. Thin layers of water, 
air, glass, of metallic oxides, of organic substances, in fact 
of almost everything, display these colours. The most fa- 
miliar example is furnished by a soap-bubble. When it first 
begins to grow, it is destitute of colour and perfectly trans- 
parent ; it gives by reflection from its spherical surface a 
distorted image of the window, with the bars all curved, 
but no unusual hues are noticed till it has become somewhat 
enlarged.* Then faint greens and rose-tints begin to make 
their appearance, mingling uneasily together as if subjected 
to a constant stirring process. As the bubble expands and 
the film becomes more attenuated, the colours gain in bril- 
liancy, and a set of magnificent blue and orange hues, pur- 
ples, yellows and superb greens replaces the pale colours 
which marked the early stages, and by their changing flow 
and perpetual play fascinate the beholder. If the bubble 

* It is not very uncommon to meet with paintings in wliicli a bubble 
has been represented with window-bars on its surface, where nothing of 
the kind could have been visible. A friend has mentioned to the author 
four cases where dififerent ai-tists have introduced window-bars instead of 
slty and landscape, on the surfaces of bubbles which were in the open air. 


has the rare fortune to live to a good old age, at its upper 
portion a different series of tints begins to be developed ; 
the tawny yellow, before mentioned, begins to be seen in 
irregular patches, floating around among the more brilliant 
hues, a sign that the attenuation has nearly reached its ex- 
treme limit ; but, if by some unusual chance it should be a 
Methuselah among bubbles, pale white and grey tints also 
are seen, after which it is sure to burst. A long-lived soap- 
bubble displays every colour which can be produced by 
polarization. The thin film has a sifting action on white 
light, which in its final result is the same as in the case of 
the production of colour by polarized light : certain rays are 
struck out, and, as before, white light deprived of one of 
its constituents furnishes coloured light. This elimination 
is accomplished by the interference of the waves of light in- 
volved ; hence, colours produced in this way are called " in- 
terference colours." The colours of polarization are also just 
as truly interference colours, but they are not usually known 
under this name. From all this it follows that the colours 
produced by thin layers, or by very fine particles, always 
contain some white light, and consequently cannot quite 
rival in purity or intensity the spectral hues. 

The colours of polarization, as we have seen, are never 
met with outside of the laboratory. Nature, on the other 
hand, here and there with a sparing hand, displays in small 
quantity, and as a rarity, the colours of interference. They 
are used as a wonderful kind of jewelry in the adornment 
of many birds ; lavishly so in the case of the common pea- 
cock, where the breast and tail feathers in full sunshine dis- 
play flashing, dazzling hues, which make our artificial or- 
naments appear pale and tame. In. contemplating these 
astonishing hues, or those of that tiny winged jewel, the 
humming-bird, we are struck by the circumstance that they 
actually have a metallic brilliancy, which we in vain at- 
tempt to rival with our brightest pigments. To compete 
with them successfully,, it is necessary to substitute a sur- 


face of silver for the white paper, and to cover it with the 
purest and most transparent glazes. This appearance of 
metallic lustre depends on the circumstance that much col- 
oured light is reflected, mingled with only a small quantity 
of white light, the great bulk of the latter being absorbed 
by the dark pigment contained in the interior of the feath- 
ers. When this dark pigment is absent, we have as before 
colour ; but, being mingled with much reflected white lightj 
it- presents simply an appearance like that of mother-of- 

There is yet another peculiarity of the colours now 
under consideration, which still more completely separates 
them from the hues furnished by pigments : it is their va- 
riability. These colours, as has been mentioned, are pro- 
duced by the interference of the waves of light which are 
reflected from the thin films : the nature of this interference 
depends partly on the angle at which this reflection takes 
place, so that, as we turn a peacock's feather in the hand, 
its colour constantly changes. The same is true of the tints 
of the soap-bubble, and of interference colours in general 
— the hue changes with the position of the eye ; as they are 
viewed more and more obliquely, the tint changes in the 
order of the spectrum, viz., from red to orange, to yellow, 

The brilliant metallic colours exhibited by many insects, 
particularly the beetles, belong also in this class, so also the 
more subdued steel-blues and bottle-greens displayed by 
many species of flies. So commonly does this occur that it 
suggests the idea that these humble creatures are not desti- 
tute of a sense for colour capable of gratification by bril- 
liant hues. If we descend into the watery regions we find 
their inhabitants richly decorated with colours of the same 
general origin, the pearly rainbow hues which they display 
all depending on the interference of light. The same is 
true of the iridescent hues which so commonly adorn shells 
externally and internally. In this case candour compels one 


to- admit that the colours, beautiful as they are, can hardly 
be a source of pleasure to the occupants or to their friends. 

Leaving the animated world, we find the colours of in- 
terference shown frequently, but in an inconspicuous man- 
ner, by rather old window-glass ; some of the alkali seems 
to be removed by the rain, and in the course of time a thin 
film of silica capable of generating these hues is formed. 
In antique glass which has long remained bm-ied this pro- 
cess is carried much further, so that sometimes the whole 
plate or vase tends to split up into flates. Here, owing to 
successive reflections on many layers, the light which reach- 
es the eye is quite bright, and the colours intense. Crim- 
son, azure, and gold are found in combination ; blue melts 
into purple or flashes into red ; ruby tints contrast with 
emerald hues : each change of the position of the eye or of 
the direction of the light gives rise to a new and startling 
effect. In other cases broad fields of colour, with much 
gentle gradation and mingling of tender pearly hues, re- 
place the gorgeous prismatic tints, and fascinate the be- 
holder with their soft brilliancy. 

The iridescent hues of many minerals fall into the same 
general class ; they are beautifully displayed by some of 
the feldspars, and the brilliant hues found on anthracite 
coal have also the same origin. The blue films often pur- 
posely produced on steel are due to thin layers of oxide of 
iron which suppress the yellow rays. Other cases might be 
mentioned, but these will sufiice for the present. 


If wHte light be allowed to fall on water which is con- 
tained in a clear, colourless glass vessel, some of it will be 
reflected from the surface of the liquid, while another por- 
tion will traverse the water and finally again reach the au-. 
These well-known facts are represented in Fig. 12. An 
eye placed at E will perceive the reflected light to be white, 
and the transmitted light will also appear white to an eye 
situated at O. But, if now a little milk be added to the 
water, a remarkable change will be produced : light will, as 
before, be reflected from the surface to the eye placed at E, 
and this surface-light will still be white ; but the little milk- 
globules ' under the surface and throughout the liquid will 
also reflect light to E — this light will be bluish. From this 
experiment, then, it appears that the minute globules sus- 
pended in the liquid have the power of reflecting light of a 
bluish tint. In Fig. 12 the light is represented as being 
reflected only in one direction ; but, when the milk-globules 
are added, they scatter reflected light in many directions, so 
that an eye placed anywhere above the liquid perceives this 
bluish appearance. 

On the other hand, after the addition of the milk, the 
light at O (Fig. 12), which has passed through the milky 
liquid, will be found to have acquired a yellowish tint. 
From this it appears that fine particles suspended in a liquid 
have the power of dividing white light into two portions, 
tinted respectively yellowish and bluish. If more milk be 



added to the water, white light will mingle in and wiU final- 
ly overpower the bluish reflected light, so that it will hardly 
he noticed ; as the quantity of mUk is increased, the colour 
of the transmitted light will pass from yellow to orange, to 
red, and finally disappear, the liquid having become at last 
so opaque as to cease to transmit light altogether. 

Fi8. 12.— Kefleotion and Transmission of Light by Water. 

This very curious action is not confined to mixtures of 
milk and water, but is exhibited whenever very fine parti' 
cles are suspended in a medium different from themselves. 
If an alcoholic solution of a resin is poured with constant 
stirring into water, very fine particles of resin are left sus- 
pended in the liquid, and give rise to the appearances just 
described. BrUcke dissolves one part of mastic in eighty- 
seven parts, of alcohol, and then mixes with water, the water 


being kept in constant agitation. A liquid prepared in tHs 
way shows by reflected light a soft sky-like hue, the colour 
of the light which has passed through being either yellow 
or red, according to the thickness of the layer traversed. 
The suspended particles of resin are very fine, and remain 
mingled with the water for months ; they are often so fine 
as to escape detection by the most powerful microscopes. 

Some kinds of glass which are used for ornamental pur- 
poses possess the same property, appearing bluish- white by 
reflected light, but tingeing the light which comes through 
them red or orange-red. The beautiful tints of the opal 
probably have the same origin, and the same is (rue also of 
the bluish, milky colour which characterizes many other 
varieties of quartz. 

Not only liquids and solids exhibit this phenomenon of 
opalescence, but we find it also sometimes displayed else- 
where ; thus, for example, a thin column of smoke from 
burning wood reflects quite a proportion of blue light, 
while the sunlight which traverses it is tinted of a brown- 
ish-yellow, or it may be, even red, if the smoke is pretty 

AH these phenomena are probably due to an interference 
of light, which is brought about by the presence of the fine 
vparticles, the shorter waves being reflected more copiously 
than those which are longer ; these last, on the other hand, 
being more abundantly transmitted. An elaborate expla- 
nation of the mode in which the interference takes place 
would be foreign to the purpose of the present work ; we 
therefore pass on to the consideration of the more practical 
aspects of this matter.* 

It will be well to notice, in the first place, certain con- 
ditions which favour not so much the formation as the per- 
ception of the tints in question : thus it will be found that 

* Compare E. Briioke, in Poggendorff 's " Annalen," Bd. 88, S. 363"; 
alBO Bezold's " Farbenlehre," p. 89. 



the blue tint, in the experiments with the liquids, is best 
exhibited by placing the containing glass vessel on a black 
surface. This effectually prevents the-blue reflected light 
from being mingled with rays which have been directly 
transmitted from underneath. Indeed, the mere presence 
or absence of a dark background may cause the tint which 

Fig, 13. — Smoke appears Blue on a Bark Backgroimd ; Brown on a Light Background. 

finally is perceived by the eye to change from yellow to 
blue, the other conditions all remaining unaltered. Thus in 
Fig. 13 we have thin smoke seen partly against a dark 
background, and partly against a sky covered with white 
clouds : the lower portion is blue, from reflected light, 
while in the upper portion this tint is overpowered by the 
greater intensity of the transmitted light, which is yellow- 
ish-brown. As a general thing, the reflected and transmit- 
ted beams are both present ; dark backgrounds favour the 
former, luminous ones the latter. 

If a thin coating of white paint, such as white lead or 
zinc-white, is spread over a black or dark ground, the 
touches so laid on will have a decidedly bluish tint, owing 
to the causes which have just been considered. If a draw- 
ing on dark paper be retouched with zinc-white used as a 
water-colour, the touches will appear bluish and inharmo- 
nious, unless especial care is taken to prevent the white 


pigment from being to some extent translucent ; this disa- 
greeable appearance can only be prevented by making each 
touch dense, and quite opaque. For the production of such 
effects it is not even necessary to go through the formality 
of laying the white pigment on a dark ground ; white lead 
mingled with any of the ordinary black pigments gives not 
a pure but a bluish grey. This is very marked in the case 
of black prepared from cork, which hence has sometimes 
been called "beggars' ultramarine." If yellow pigments 
are mixed with black, the effect is not simply to darken the 
yellow, as would be expected, but it is converted into an 
olive-green. This is particularly the case with those pig- 
ments which approximate to pure yellow in hue, such as 
gamboge and aureolin ; the least admixture of dark pig- 
ment carries them over toward green. But if these black- 
and-white or black-and-yellow pigments are combined by 
the method of rotating disks (see Chapter X.), we' obtain 
pure greys or darker yellow tints, showing that the blue 
hue is not, as many suppose, inherent in the black pigment, 
but an accident due to the mode of its employment. The 
above-mentioned cases are marked examples of the applica- 
tion of these principles to painting ; but in a more subtile 
way the whole theory of the process of oil-painting takes 
cognizance of them, and is so adjusted as to avoid difficul- 
ties thus introduced, or, more rarely, to utilize them. It is 
perhaps scarcely necessary to add that the somewhat bluish 
tone of drawings made with body colour, or of frescoes, is 
due to these same causes. 

Having hinted at the influence which this peculiar op- 
tical action exerts on the infancy of a picture, we pass on 
to consider some of its effects on a painting in its old age. 
It is well known that old oil-paintings frequently become 
more or less covered by what seems to be a coating of grey 
or bluish-grey mould, which, spreading itself particularly 
over the darker portions, obscures them, so that all details 
aje lost, and the work of the artist entirely destroyed. In- 


vestigation has shown that this trouble is caused by an iiu' 
mense number of fine cracks in the painting itself, which 
seem to act somewhat in the same way as the mixtures 
which have just been considered, so that the observer is 
practically looking at the picture through a rather dense 
haze. By filling these invisible cracks up with varnish the 
matter is somewhat helped, but much moi'e perfectly by. the 
"regenerations process" of Pettenkofer. This celebrated 
chemist once by accident used an old, worn-out oil-cloth 
mat, from which the pattern had mostly disappeared, to 
cover a beaker containing hot alcohol. On removing the 
mat, some hours afterward, he was surprised to find that 
the portion acted on by the alcoholic vapours had been reju: 
venated and the pattern restored. It was soon ascertained 
that the vapours had softened the pigment, and the separated 
grains had again been fused together. Experiments on old 
oil-paintings gave similar results, and the process is now in 
use in some of the largest European galleries. 

In many other objects besides those that have been 
mentioned these peculiar tints can be observed ; among 
minor examples may be mentioned the bluish-grey or green- 
ish-grey tint which marks the course of veins under the 
skin ; the blue or greenish colour of the human eye also 
owes its tint to the same cause. In these cases an opalescent 
membrane is spread over a dark background, and the colour 
is produced in the same manner as in the experiments de- 
scribed at the commencement of this chapter. In blue eyes 
there is no real blue colouring-matter at all. 

It is, however, the sky that exhibits this class of tints 
on the grandest scale, as well as in the greatest perfection. 
Our atmosphere, even when perfectly clear, contains sus- 
pended in it immense numbers of very fine particles which 
never settle to the earth, and which the rain has no power 
to wash down. When they are illuminated by sunlight 
they reflect white light mixed with a certain proportion of 
blue, and this blue is seen on a black background, which is 


nothing less than the empty space in which the earth is 
hung. Hence, the blue colour of the sky. This tint on 
clear days can be traced up tolerably near the sun, indeed, 
until the brightness of the sky. begins to be blinding. An 
examination of the deepest blue portions of the sky with 
the spectroscope reveals the presence of much white light, 
so that the blue colour is very far from being pure or satu- 
rated — a fact that young landscape-painters soon have 
forced on their attention. In clear weather, as long as the 
sun is at a considerable distance from the horizon, the yel- 
low colour which accompanies the transmission of light 
through an opalescent medium is not much noticed ; but, as 
the sun sinks lower, its rays traverse an always increasing 
thickness of the atmosphere, and encounter a greater num. 
ber of fine particles, so that the transmitted light, late in 
the afternoon, becomes decidedly yellow or rather orange- 

Having thus briefly considered the production of or- 
dinary sky-tints, let us pass to the aspects assumed by a 
landscape under the influence of the minute suspended par- 
ticles. These atoms will of course reflect light toward the 
observer, and this light will add itself to that which comes 
regularly from objects in the landscape, producing thus 
important changes in their appearance. The very thick 
layer of air intervening between the observer and the most 
distant mountains will send to the eye a very large amount 
of whitish-blue light, which will not greatly differ from a 
sky-tint. This will entirely overpower the somewhat feeble 
light reflected from portions of the mountain in shade, so 
that as a result we shall have all the shadows of the moun- 
tain represented by more or less pure sky-tints, and these 
tints will be far more luminous, far brighter, than the ori- 
ginal shadows were. No details will be visible in these 
wonderfully shaped bluish patches. Those portions of the 
mountains, on the other hand, which are in full sunlight will 
still visibly send light to the eye through the haze, and 


their prevailing tint will be yellowish or orange, or some 
other -warm tone. Not many details will be visible, and the 
actual colours or local colours of the mountain will not at 
all. ai^pear, or at most will only blend themselves with the 
soft, warm tints due to the medium. In a word, the con- 
trast between the light and shade will be enormously dimin- 
ished, so that the general luminosity of the mpuntain. will 
be hardly less than that of the sky itself, and its colour will 
be worked out mainly in tints which have the same origin 
and character with those of the sky. As we approach 
nearer the. mountain, these effects begin slowly to- diminish, 
and in the sunlit portions delicate greens, varied and soft 
greys, begin to make their appearance, while the shadows 
lose theh' heavenly blue, and, darkening, become bluish- 
grey. Afterward all those parts lying in sunlight display 
their local tints, somewhat softened, and the coloured light 
from the shadows begins to make itself felt, and, mingling 
with the blue reflected light, to produce soft purplish-greys, 
greenish-greys, and other nameless tints. The sunlit por- 
tions of the pine-trees will be of an olive-green or of a low 
greenish-yellow, the shadows on the same trees being pure 
grey or bluish-grey without any suggestion of green. On 
nearer objects these effects are less traceable, and the natural 
relation between light and shade more and more preserved, 
so that contrast of this last kind becomes progressively 
stronger as we turn from the most distant to the nearest 
objects. All these effects are readily traceable on any or- 
dinary clear day ; they change, of course, with the condition 
of the atmosphere, and as it becomes misty the blue reflected 
light changes to grey, the transmitted light not being 
equally affected. 

Late in the afternoon, when the sun is low, its rays trav- 
erse very thick layers of the atmosphere, and wonderful 
chromatic effects are produced. Near the sun the transmit- 
ted light is yellowish, but so bright that the colour is not 
very perceptible ; to the right and left the colour deepens 


into an orange, often into a red, whicli, as the distance from 
the sun increases, fades out into a purplish-grey, greyish- 
blue, passing finally into a sky-blue. The warm tints are 
produced mainly by transmitted light, the cold ones by re- 
flected light, and the neutral hues by a combination of both. 
Above the sun there is, in clear sunsets, a rather regular 
transition upward, from the colours due to transmitted, to 
those produced by reflected light. As the sun sinks lower 
its rays encounter a greater mass of suspended particles, 
and the warm tints above mentioned move toward the red 
end of the spectrum, and also gain in intensity. The pres- 
ence of clouds breaks up the symmetry of these natural 
chromatic compositions, and gives rise to the most magnifi- 
cent effects of colour with which we are acquainted. The 
landscape itself sympathizes with the sky, and near the sun, 
chameleon-like, assumes an orange or even red hue ; while at 
greater distances its cold tints are wanned, even the greens 
being changed into olive or yellowish hues. Simultaneous- 
ly the shadows lengthen enormously, bringing thus the com- 
position into grand and imposing masses, and investing even 
the most commonplace scenery with an air of great noble- 
ness and beauty. 

The complete series of sunset hues, from the brightest 
light to the deepest shade, runs as follows : 

1-. Yellow. I 3. Red. I S. Violet-blue. 

2. Orange. I 4. Purple. ' 6. Grey-blue. 

This, as it were, normal series is often interrupted by 
the omission of one or more of the intermediate hues, and 
sometimes begins as low as the red or even purple. 



In all the cases thus far examined, colour has heen pro- 
duced either by the analysis of white light or by subjecting 
it to a process of, subtraction, as in the examples mentioned 
in the last chapter. The very astonishing discovery of 
Stokes, however, has proved that colour can be produced in 
a new and entirely different way. If, in a darkened room 
the pure violet light of the spectrum be allowed to fall on 
a plate or wineglass made of uranium glass, these articles 
will not reflect violet light to the eye as would be expected, 
but will glow with a bright-green light, looking in the dark- 
ness almost as though they had suddenly become self-lumi- 
nous. This kind of glass has, then, the extraordinary prop- 
erty of entirely altering the colour of the light that falls on 
it, and of causing the light to assume a quite different 
hue. But, as colour depends on wave-length, we are led to 
ask whether this property of the original beam of light is 
also affected by the uranium glass. Stokes proved conclu- 
sively that this is the case, and that in all such experiments 
the length of the wave is made greater. It would appear 
that the waves of light act on the atoms which make up (or 
surround) the molecules of the glass, and set them in vibra- 
tion ; they continue in vibration for some little time after- 
ward, at a rate of their own selection, which is always less 
than that of the waves of light which gave the first impulse. 
Being in vibration, they act as luminous centres, and com- 


municate vibrations to the external ether, and this is the 
green light that finally reaches the eye. The action takes 
place not only on the surface of the glass, but deep in its 
interior, so that, if the experiment be made with a thick 
cube of the glass, it actually appears milky and almost 
opaque, owing to the abundant flood of soft green light 
which it pours out in all directions. It is not even neces- 
sary to employ as a source of illumination the pure violet of 
the spectrum ; sunlight streaming through blue cobalt glass 
answers as well, and the sharp change from the violet-blue 
to the milky-green is quite as astonishing. 

Under ordinary daylight uranium glass scatters in all 
directions a bluish -green light, which is due to the cause 
above mentioned, but the light which passes through its 
substance is merely tinged yellow. Both these tints make 
their appearance in daylight, and by their combination 
communicate to articles made of this glass a peculiar and 
rather beautiful appiearance. Candle-light or gas-light fur- 
nishes but a scanty supply of blue and violet rays, hence 
this kind of illumination robs uranium glass entirely of 
its charm, and the articles made of it assume a dull yel- 
lowish hue which is neither striking nor attractive. There 
are many salts which have this property in a high degree : 
among the best known is the platino-cyanide of barium, 
which presents appearances similar to those above men- 
tioned. Thallene, an organic substance derived from coal- 
tar, and described by Morton, must also be classed with 
uranium glass.* Drawings made with this substance on 
white paper, by daylight appear yellowish, but when placed 
under a violet or blue illumination flash into sudden bril- 
liancy, and scatter in all directions a strong greenish light. 
There are many liquids which have the same property, 
and which display different colours when acted on by violet 
light, but for an account of them we must refer the curi- 

* See "Chemical News," December, 1S72. 


ous reader to. Dr. Pisko's work on the fluorescence of 

Before passing from this subject it maybe as well to. add 
.that phosphorescence also often gives rise to colours which 
more or less closely resemble those of fluorescence. If tubes 
filled with the sulphides of barium, strontium, calcium, etc., 
be placed in a dark room and illuminated for an instant 
by a beam of sunlight, by the electric light, or by bumiag 
magnesium wire, they will display a charming set of tints 
for some minutes afterward. Some will shine with a soft 
violet light, others will display an orange or yellow glow ; 
delicate blues will make their appearance, and will contrast 
well with the red hues, the latter resembling in the dark- 
ness living coals of fire. The tints, as such, are very beau- 
tiful and suggestive, though of course no direct application 
can be made of them to artistic purposes. 

* " Die Fluorescenz des Lichtes," F. J. Pisko, Yicnna. 



The colours produced by the dispersion, interference, 
and polarization of light have great interest from a purely 
scientific point of view, and are also valuable in helping us 
to frame a true theory of colour, but it is to the phenomena 
of absorption that the colours of ordinary objects are almost 
entirely due. The pigments used by painters, the dyes em- 
ployed by manufacturers, the colouring-matter of flowers, 
trees, rocks, and water, all belong here. Let us begin our 
study of this subject with a fragment of stained glass. 
When we place the glass flat on a surface of black cloth, 
and expose it to ordinary daylight, we find that it reflects 
light to the eye just as a piece of ordinary window-glass 
would under similar circumstances, and this light is white, 
not coloured. In this experiment, the rays of light which 
reach the eye have been reflected from the mere surface of 
the plate of glass, those rays which penetrate its interior 
being finally absorbed by the black cloth underneath, and 
never reaching the eye at all. If we now raise the glass 
and allow the light of the sky to pass through it and fall 
on the eye, we find that it has been coloured ruby-red. The 
light of a candle- or gas-flame is affected in the same way, 
and a beam of sunlight streaming through the plate of glass 
falls on the opposite wall as an intensely red, luminous 
spot. Our first and very natural impression is, that the 
stained glass has the power of altering the quality of light — 
that the white light is in some way actually transmuted 



rCito red light. This seems to he the universal impression 
among those who have not particularly examined the mat- 
ter. We saw, in Chapter II., that with a prism we could 
analyze white light, and sort out the waves composing it 
according to their length, and that the sensation which- the 
waves produced on the eye varied with their length, the long- 
est giving red, the shortest violet. The prism can also be ap- 
plied to the study of the matter now under consideration. A 

Fig. 14.— Eed Glass placed over Slit in Black CardbQard, 

screen of black pasteboard is to be prepared with a narrow 
slit cut in its centre ; over the slit a piece of stained glass is 
to be fastened, as indicated in Fig. 14. If, now, this arrange- 
ment be placed in front of a window, matters can be so 
contrived that white light from a cloud shall fall upon the 
slit and traverse the stained glass ; it will afterward reach 

Pio. IB.— Spectrum of Light transmitted through Eed Gllass. 

the prism which will analyze it. On mating this experi- 
ment we find that the result is similar to what is indicated 
in Fig. 15 : the prism informs us that the transmitted beam 


consists mainly of red light ; a little orange light is also 
present. The experiment can, howe%''er, be made in a more 
instructive way, by covering only half of the slit with 
the plate of glass. On repeating it with this modification, 
we obtain side by side an analysis of the white light direct 
from the cloud, and of the light which has traversed the 
ruby glass ; the result is indicated .in Fig. 16, and we see 


■ RIO 


/EL ( 





1 RED 






Fia. 16.— Spectrum of White and Ked Light compared. 

at a glance that the solution of the whole matter is sim- 
ply this : the ruby glass is able to transmit the red rays, 
but it stops all the others ; these last it absorbs — hence 
we say it produces its colour by absorption. The other rays 
are in fact converted into heat, and raise the temperature 
of the glass to a trifling extent. The experiment can be 
varied somewhat without affecting the result ; if a solar 
spectrum be projected on a screen, as described in Chapter 
II., we shall find, when we look at it through the ruby glass, 
that we can see only the red space, light from the other col- 
oured spaces not being able to pen'etrate the glass ; and 
finally, when we hold our plate of glass directly in the paths 
of the coloured rays, we shall notice that it stops all ex- 
cept those that are red. These simple fundamental experi- 
ments prove that the ruby glass does not transmiite white 
light into red, but that it arrests certain rays, and converts 
them into a kind of force which has no effect on the eye ; 
the rays which are not arrested finally reach the eye and 
produce the sensation of colour. 



For more careful examinations of the coloured light 
transmitted by stained glass a spectroscope with one flint- 
glass prism can advantageously be used. The stained glass 
is to be fastened so that it covers one half of the slit, and 
then we shall have, placed side by side, the spectrum due 
to the glass and a prismatic one for comparison. In this 
latter the fixed lines will be present, and we can use them as 
a kind of natural micrometer for mapping down our results. 
There is, however, another point to be attended to. When 
we come to examine the red glass carefully with the spec- 
troscope, we find that it not only transmits the red rays 
powerfully, but that a little of the orange rays also passes 
through with still smaller portions of the gi-een and blue 
rays. Hence we are dealing not only with spaces in the 
spectrum, but with the relative intensities of the coloured 
light filling those spaces. It is difficult, or rather impos- 






Fio. 17.— Spectrum, showing the Extent and Intensity of the Golonred Light transmitted 
by Eed Glass. The shaded portion represents the transmitted hght. 

sible, to represent the different intensities by shading on 
paper ; hence physicists have adopted a certain convention 
which removes this trouble, and enables them to express 
differences in luminosity readily and accurately. All this 
is accomplished by drawing a curve, and agreeing that dis- 
tances measured upward to it shall represent different de- 
grees of luminosity. We agree, then, to let the entire rec- 
tangle A H O N, Fig. 17, represent a solar spectrum, with 


its different colours properly arranged, and having their 
natural or normal luminosities, and in this rectangle we 
draw the curve furnished by the red glass (Fig. 17). We 
find that it is highest in the red space ; but even here it 
reaches only about half way up, showing that the luminos- 
ity of the transmitted red light is only half as great as that 
of the same light in the spectrum ; in the orange space it 
falls rapidly off, the curve sinking with a steep slope ; after 
that it runs out into the green and blue, almost to the vio- 
let, in such a way as to indicate that the red glass transmits 
minute quantities of these different kinds of coloured light. 
The luminosity, then, of all the transmitted rays, except 
the red, being quite feeble, the light which comes through 
appears pure red. Making an examination of an orange- 
yellow glass in the same way, we obtain the curve shown in 
Fig. 18 : this glass, it appears, transmits most of the red. 







Fio. 18.— The shaded portion shows the amount of light transmitted by an orange- 
coloored glass. 

orange, and yellow rays, with much of the green and a 
little of the blue. Here, of course, the orange and yellow 
rays after transmission make up an orange-yellow hue, and 
the green and red rays by their union reproduce the same 
colour, as we shall see in Chapter X. Hence the final colour 
is orange-yellow, without the least tint of red or green. 
Taking next a green glass, we obtain another curve. Fig. 19, 
showing that much green light is transmitted, but along 








B C 


Fig. 19. — The shaded portion represents the amount of light transmitted hy green glass. 

with it .some red and some' blue. Blue glass shows the 
cyan-blue weakened, the ultramarine-blue and violet strong; 
the green is very weak, so also are yellow and orange ; the 
red is mostly absent, except a feeble extreme red. The re- 
sult is of course a violet-blue (Fig. 20). A purple glass is 






Fio. 20.— The shaded portion represents the amount of light transmitted by blue glass. 

found to absorb the middle of the spectrum, i. e., the yel- 
low, green, and cyan-blue ; the red and violet are also en- 
feebled, but are at all events far stronger than the other 
transmitted rays. We have, then, as a final result, red, 
ultramarine-blue, and violet, which being mingled make 
"purple. It is evident from these experiments that the col- 
ours produced by absorption are not simple, like those fur- 
nished by the prism, but are resultant hues, produced by 
the mixture of many different kinds of coloured light hav- 


ing varying degrees of brightness. On this account, and by 
reason of the tendency of many kinds of stained glass to 
absorb to a considerable extent all kinds of coloured light . 
presented to them, it happens that stained glass furnishes 
us with coloured light inferior in purity and luminosity to 
that obtained by the use of a prism. Nevertheless these 
colours are the purest and most intense that we meet with in 
daily life, and far surpass in brilliancy and saturation those 
produced by dyestuflfs or pigments. 

There is one property which probably all substances 
possess which produce colour by absorption, upon which a 
few words must be now bestowed. If we cause white 
light to pass through a single plate of yellow glass, the 
rays which reach the eye will of course be coloured yellow. 
Add now a second plate of the same glass, and the light 
which traverses the double plate assumes a somewhat dif- 
ferent appearance ; it evidently is not so luminous, and its 
colour is no longer quite the same. Using six or eight 
plates of the yellow glass, we find that the transmitted 
light appears orange. If the same experiment be repeated, 
using a considerable number of plates of the same glass, 
the colour will change to dark red. From this it appears 
that the colour of the transmitted beam of light depends 
somewhat on the thickness of the absorbing medium. This 
change in the case of some liquids is very considerable : 
thin layers, for example, of a solution of chloride of chro- 
mium transmit green light mainly, and so imitate the ac- 
tion of a plate of green glass ; thick layers of the same 
liquid transmit less light in general, but the dominant 
colour is red, and objects viewed through them look as 
they would, seen through a plate of dark-red glass. This 
curious property is easily explained by an examination of 
the action of the liquid on the prismatic spectrum. In Fig. 
21 the curve represents the relative intensity of the coloured 
light in different portions of the spectrum. If we cut off 

successively slices of the rectangle, as is done in Figs. 23 


A B C D E F G 






Fig. 21. — ^The sliaded portion represents the amount of light transmitted by chloride of 


and 23, we obtain the curves corresponding to a greater 
and greater thickness of liquid, and it is plain that at last 
we shall have the state of things indicated in Fig. 23 ; the 




Fig. 22. — Chloride of Chromium; Effect produced by a Thick Layer. 

curve is about the same as for red glass (Pig. 17), and the 
final colour is red. This is an extreme case, but in stained 
glasses, pigments, dyestuffs, etc., there is generally a ten- 

A B C 


Fia. 28.— Chloride of Chromium ; Kfiect produced by a very Thick Layer. 

dency toward the production of effects of this kind, some 
of which will hereafter be noticed. 

The colours of painted glass are similar to those of 
stained glass in origin and properties ; both are intense, 
rather free from admixture with white light, and capable 


of a high degree of luminosity. In these respects they far 
surpass the colours of pigments, which compared with them 
appear feeble and dull, or pale. Oiying to this circum- 
stance, chromatic combinations may be successfully worked 
out in stained glass, which would prove failures if attempt- 
ed with pigments or dyestuflEs. Hence also the wonderfully 
luminous appearance of paintings on glass viewed in a prop- 
erly darkened room : they surpass in some respects oil or 
water-colour paintings to such a degree that the two are not 
to be mentioned together. There is no doubt but that 
glass-painting offers advantages for the production of real- 
istic eflEects of colour and light and shade, such as the very 
narrow scale of oil and water-colour utterly denies ; and 
yet great artists seem to reject this process, and severely 
confine themselves to work on canvas or paper, choosing to 
depend for their effects rather on pure technical skiU and 
artistic feeling. 

If we place on a sheet of white paper a fragment of pale- 
blue glass, it will display its colour, though not so brilliantly 
as when held so that the light of the window streams through 
it directly. The reason is very evident : the light which 
penetrates the glass falls on the paper and is reflected by it 
back through the glass to the eye. The light then traverses 
the glass twice, but this is not the only cause of its inferior 
luminosity, for a double plate of the same glass held before 
the window appears still far brighter than the single glass 
on the paper. The other reason is that the paper itself re- 
flects only a small amount of the light falling on it. Upon 
examining the matter more closely we find also that the blue 
glass reflects from its surface quite a quantity of white light, 
which, when mingled with the coloured light, renders it 
somewhat pale. If, now, we grind up into a very fine pow- 
der some of the blue glass, we obtain the pigment known 
as smalt, and, after mixing it with water, we can wash our 
white paper with a thin layer of it. When it dries the 


paper will be coloured blue, but the hue will be neither so 
luminous nor so intense as that of the light directly trans- 
mitted by the blue glass when held before a window. Its 
origin, however, is similar : the white light after traversing 
a layer of the minute blue particles reaches the paper, and 
is reflected backward once more through them toward the 
eye. In this process many coloured rays suffer absorption, 
and only a small portion of the constituents of the original 
beam finally reach the eye. In the original experiment, 
where the blue glass was simply laid on the white paper, it 
sometimes happened that the white light regularly reflected 
from its first surface mingled itself with the coloured light 
and caused it to look paler, but it was always possible to 
arrange matters so that this damaging coincidence did not 
occur.- In the experiment with the blue powder spread on 
the paper this is impossible, for the surfaces of the little 
particles lie with all possible inclinations, so that, hold the 
paper as we will, it is sure to reflect much white along with 
its coloured light. What we have, then, to expect when 
pigmeiltB in dry powder are spread on white paper is, that 
they will reflect only a moderate quantity of colom'ed light 
to the eye, and that it will be rendered somewhat pale by 
admixture with white light. 

With the aid of a little hand spectroscope these points 
are readily demonstrated : when we direct the instrument 
toward our blue paper, we find that all the colours of the 
spectrum are present in considerable quantities — hence some 
white light must be reflected from the paper ; we also notice 
that the red, yellow, orange, and green rays are present in 
less quantity than in an ordinary prismatic spectrum — Whence 
the curve for the smalt-paper is like that given in Fig. 24. 
In making examinations with the spectroscope of the col- 
oured light reflected from painted surfaces, it is advanta- 
geous to use simultaneously, along with the strip of painted 
paper, one which is white and a third which is black. It 
has been found by the author that paper painted dead-black 


with lampblack, to which has been added just enough spirit 
varnish to prevent its rubbing off, but not enough to cause 
it in the least degree to shine, reflects yf^ as much light as 
white paper. Hence if we set the luminosity of white paper 
as 100, that of dead-black paper will be 5. Now, when a 




Fio. 24.— 







Curve for Bmalt-paper ; the shaded portion represents the light reflected 
by smalt-paper. 

strip of this black paper is placed before the slit of the spec- 
troscope it acts like white paper seen under a feeble illumi- 
nation, and consequently furnishes a complete though not a 
very luminous spectrum. By using, then, a black-and-white 
strip along with the one which has been painted, we can 
ascertain several facts which may best be explained with 
the help of an example. Let us first select vermilion in dry 
powder, and undertake an examination of its optical proper- 
ties in this way. We find that the red of its spectrum is 
about as powerful as the red in the spectrum from white 
paper, and that the other colours, though all present, are 
not much if any stronger than those from the black paper. 
This is all we can demand from any pigment : it reflects to 
the eye its full share of the rays it professes to reflect, and 
they are not mingled with more white light than is reflected 
by dead-black paper. Emerald-green when tested in this 
way proves sensibly inferior to vermilion : examined in 
dry powder the green space was bright, but less bright than 
that from white paper ; the other colours had about the 
same degree of luminosity as those from the black paper, 


except the violet, which was not present. Chrome-yellow 
reflected the red, orange, yellow, and green rays about as 
brilliantly as white paper ; the cyan-blue, ultramarine, and 
violet, about like black paper. Hence the great luminosity 
of this pigment, for it reflects not only the yellow rays 
abundantly, but also all the other rays of the spectrum 
which are distinguished for luminosity. As before re- 
marked, the sum of these rays makes up yellow. It is plain 
from these experiments that a painted surface can never be 
as luminous as one which is white ; the most that can be 
demanded from a painted surface is, that it should reflect 
its peculiar coloured light as powerfully as a white surface 
does ; the very cause of its furnishing coloured light is, that 
it fails to reflect all the coloured rays equally well. Hence 
coloured surfaces are always darker than those which are 
white. If we set the luminosity of white paper as 100, that 
of vermilion will be about 25, emerald-green 48, and chrome- 
yellow as high as 75 or 80. 

These experiments can now be repeated with the same 
pigments covered by a layer of water. The surface of the 
water being quite flat, the spectroscope can be held in such 
a way as to avoid the light directly reflected from the water, 
and it then becomes possible to observe certain changes 
which the presence of the water brings about. In the case 
of vermilion we find that the blue and violet portions of the 
spectrum almost entirely vanish, a little of the yellow, 
orange, and green spaces remains, and the red is nearly as 
powerful as before. This proves that the presence of the 
water has greatly diminished the amount of white light re- 
flected from the surfaces of the particles of pigment, but 
has not much affected the brilliancy of the reflected col- 
oured light. Experiments with emerald-green and chrome- 
yellow give corresponding results ; less light in general is 
reflected, but it is somewhat purer, there being not so much 
white light mingled with it. ■ By immersing our pigments 
in oil or varnish we push these effects still further : the 


pigments appear darker, but the colour is richer, and more 
nearly free from "white light. The explanation of these 
changes is well known to physicists : they depend upon the 
fact that light moving in a rare medium like the air is abun- 
dantly reflected when it strikes on a dense substance like a 
pigment ; but if the pigment be placed under water we 
have then light moving in a dense medium (water), and 
striking on one which is only a little more dense (pigment) : 
hence but little white light will be reflected from the sur- 
face of the small particles. The coloured light which is so 
abundantly furnished by the pigment, even under water, 
has its source in reflections which take place in the interior 
of the somewhat coarsely grained particles of the pigment 
itself. If the pigment is naturally fine-grained, and also is 
mixed with a liquid like oil, having about the same optical 
density as itself, scarcely any light will be reflected from it, 
coloured or otherwise. Prussian-blue and crimson-lake, 
ground in oil, are good examples. In order to exhibit their 
colours it is necessary either to spread them in thin layers 
over a light surface, or to mix them with a white pigment ; 
alone by themselves they appear very dark, the Prussian- 
blue, indeed, almost black. Many other pigments are more 
or less affected in the same way by the presence of oil or 

From what has been stated above it follows that the 
medium with which pigments are mixed has an important 
influence on their appearance. In drawings executed in 
coloured chalks, and in oU-paintings, we have the two ex- 
tremes, works in water-colour being intermediate. Hence 
oil-painting is characterized by the richness of the colouring 
and the transparency and depth of its shadows, while in 
pastel drawings the tints are paler, the shadows less intense, 
and over the whole is spread a soft haze which lends itself 
readily to the accurate imitation of skies and distances. 
Changes in the medium are sometimes a source of embar- 
rassment to the painter. This is particularly true in the 


process of fresco-painting, and also to some extent in that 
of water-colour : as long as the pigment is moist it appears 
darker than afterward when dry, and it is necessary for the 
artist in laying on each wash to make a proper allowance 
for these changes ; this is one of the minor causes that ren- 
der the process of painting in water-colours tnore difficult 
than that in oils. 

As has already been stated, when we obtain our coloured 
light from pigments, it is apt to be more mingled with white 
light than when stained glass is used ; but, besides this, it 
is inferior to that from stained glass in the matter of lumi- 
nosity. The range of illumination in our houses is small, 
so that practically the scale of light at the disposal of the 
painter in oils or water-colours is quite limited ; in point of 
fact he is obliged by the necessities of the case to employ 
means which are quite inadequate : hence the extraordinary 
care with which he husbands his resom-ces in the matter of 
light and shade, and his constant struggle for excellence 
and decision in colouring. Muddy and dirty colours are 
instantly recognized to be such under a feeble illumination, 
even though they have passed muster under the blaze of 
full sunlight. Almost any surface looks beautiful if very 
brightly illuminated ; the eye is dazzled, and remains un- 
conscious of defects that are instantly exposed under the 
feebler light of a gallery. 

The colours which are exhibited by woven fabrics are 
due, like those of stained glass, to absorption. In the case 
of silk and wool the dye penetrates the fibres through and 
through, so that under the microscope they have much the 
same appearance as fine threads of stained glass. When 
white light falls upon a bundle of such coloiu*ed fibres, a 
portion is reflected uncoloured from the surface of the top- 
most fibres, while another portion penetrates to the rear 
surfaces of these same fibres and there is again subdivided, 
some rays penetrating still deeper into the bundle, while 
others returning to the upper surface emerge coloured. 


This process is repeated on each deeper-lying set of fibres, 
and the result is that a good deal of strongly coloured light 
is sent to the eye, mingled with a portion due to the surface 
layers, which is more faintly coloured ; there is in addition 
a small portion which is quite white. It will be seen that 
the reflective power of the fibres is an important element in 
this process, for all the coloured light which reaches the eye 
is sent there by reflection. If we take similar structures of 
silk and wool, we can compare directly the lustre or reflective 
power of the individual fibres, with the aid of a lens mag- 
nifying ten or fifteen diameters. A silk-cocoon and a piece 
of white felting answer very well for this pui-pose, and 
when they are compared under the microscope it is very 
evident that the natural lustre of the silk is greatly superior 
to that of the wool. On comparing in this way the felting 
with white cotton batting, it will be found that the wool 
surpasses the cotton in lustre, the latter appearing almost 
dead-white and free from sparkle. It follows from this that 
the coloured light which is reflected from sUk is more satu- 
rated or intense, and appears richer, than that from wool. 
The fibres of silk also can be made to lie in straight, paral- 
lel, compact bundles, which enables them to reflect the white 
light in definite directions, whereas woollen fabrics reflect it 
equally well in all directions. It results from this that a 
fabric of silk is capable, according to circumstances, of ex- 
hibiting a rich saturated colour nearly free from white 
light, or it may reflect much white light and exhibit a pale 
colour. This sparkling play of colour is beautiful, and 
causes the more uniform appearance shown by woollen 
fabrics to appear dull and tame. On the other hand, the 
superior transparency of the dyed fibres of wool over those 
of cotton give to the colours of the former material a cer- 
tain appearance of richness and saturation, and cause the 
tints of the cotton to appear somewhat opaque. 

In velvet the attempt is made to suppress all surface-light, 
and to display only those rays which have penetrated deeply 


among the fibres, and have become highly coloured. This is 
accomplished by presenting to the light a surface which is 
entirely composed of the ends of fibres, and consequently 
which has little or no capacity for reflecting light. The 
rays then penetrate between the fibres thus set up on end, 
and, after wandering among them, finally again in some 
small quantity reach the surface as richly coloured light, 
which produces its full effect undiminished by any admix- 
ture of white light from the surface. In the case of sUk- 
velvet the desired effect is for the most part actually real- 
ized : the colours are rich, and an examination with a lens 
shows that scarcely any of the fibres reflect white light, 
even when the fabric is held in unfavourable positions. If 
cotton-velvet is subjected to a similar examination under a 
lens, it will be found to reflect much surface-light, particu- 
larly when not quite new, and the surface will present a 
broken, rough appearance, quite different from that of its ' 
more aristocratic rival. 

It would appear that at present it is actually possible to 
employ for woven fabrics dyes which furnish coloured light 
having a degree of intensity and purity which is actually 
undesirable. This is the case ynth some of the aniline dyes. 
Dresses dyed with some of them, when seen in full daylight, 
act on the eye so powerfully that mere momentary inspec- 
tion gives rise to the phenomenon of accidental colours (see 
Chapter VIII.). These harsh effects are interesting as con- 
veying certain information that our dyers have already 
touched, and indeed gone beyond, the greatest allowable 
limits in the matter of the intensity and purity of then- 
hues. At least this applies to large surfaces, such as com- 
plete dresses, etc. In the case of smaller articles, such as 
ribbons, etc., these intense colours are more allowable, just 
as the flash of diamonds is more tolerable on account of 
their insignificant size. 

We have seen, thus far, that the colours of pigments 
and dyestuffs are due to absorption, and to this same cause 


we must attribute the colours of most objects which occur 
in landscapes. Two of these are so important that it will 
be worth while to devote a few moments to their separate 
consideration : we refer to the colour of water, and to that 
of vegetation. The colour of large masses of water, such 
as lakes and rivers, is so much influenced by that of the 
sky that many persons consider it to depend wholly on it, 
and are disposed to doubt whether water has any proper 
colour of its own. It is quite true that a small quantity of 
pure water, such as is contained in a drinking-glass, appears 
perfectly colourless, and that the light from white objects 
passes through it without suffering sensible absorption. K, 
however, we allow the white light from a porcelain plate to 
traverse a layer of pure distilled water two metres in thick- 
ness, it will be found to be tinged bluish. This experiment, 
which was first made by Bunsen, proves that an absorption 
takes place along the red end of the spectrum, and that 
water is really coloured in the same sense as a weak solution 
of indigo. The water of the lake of Geneva is quite pure, 
being produced mainly by the melting of glaciers ; the 
granite meal mingled with the water, being coarse, soon 
settles to the bottom, and leaves it free from turbidity. 
Hence along the wonderful shores of this lake it is easy 
to repeat the experiment of Bunsen, and to study the colour 
of this liquid. White objects, resting on the bottom in the 
shallow places where the depth is six or eight feet, show 
very plainly a greenish-blue hue, and the tint can be exam- 
ined at different depths by lowering a piece of white porce- 
lain with a string. Even on cloudy days, when the sky is 
overcast and grey, the lake itself displays a wonderfully in- 
tense cyan-blue colour, while on clear days, on looking 
down into its waters, one is tempted to believe that it 
is a vast natural dyeing-vat. When vegetable matter is 
present in small quantity the colour of water changes to a 
bluish-green ; many excellent examples occur among the 
beautiful lakes of the Tyrol. Decaying organic matter, 



on the other hand, tinges water brownish, and lakes or 
rivers of this colour are apt to assume on cloudy days a 
silver-grey appearance, while under a clear sky they often 
appear very decidedly blue. There seems to be some reason 
to believe that the absorptive action of pure water on white 
light changes with its temperature, and that warm water is 
actually more deeply coloured than cold water. Heat has 
an action of this kind upon many coloured substances, and 
Wild with his photometer actually found that both distilled 
and pump water showed somewhat stronger colours on 
being heated. He accounts in this way for the niore in- 
tense colour which it is claimed mountain lakes display 
during the summer months. 

The green colour of vegetation offers a rather peculiar 
. case. When we examine with the spectroscope any ordi- 
nary green pigment, we find that the red is absent and the 
blue and violet much weakened, as was the case with em- 



Fig. 25.-1116 shaded portioTi represents the light reflected by green leaves. 

erald-green. Green leaves, however, furnish a spectrum of 
a different character : the extreme red is present ; then 
occurs a deficiency of coloured light, which is followed by 
ah orange-red space ; next comes the orange, then the yel- 
low, greenish-yellow, and yellowish-green ; . after this fol- 
lows a little full green ; the rest of the spectrum decreases 
rapidly in luminosity. Fig. 25 represents this spectrum. 
The sum of all these colours is a somewhat yellowish green, 
which is accordingly the colour presented by green leaves 


in white light. It will be shown in Chapter X. that a mix- 
ture of red and green light furnishes yellow light, which 
explains the production of a yellowish-green in this some- 
what singular way. It follows, from the analysis just given, 
that green leaves are capable of reflecting a considerable 
quantity of red Kght, where surfaces painted with green 
pigments would not have this power, and conseqpiently 
would appear black or grey. Hence under the red light of 
the setting sun foliage may assume a red or orange-red hue. 
Corresponding to this, when the illumination is of an orange 
colour, foliage will partake more of this hue than would be 
the case with ordinary -green pigments. Connected with 
this is also the great change of colour which foliage expe- 
riences according as it is illuminated by direct sunlight or 
by light from the blue sky, the tint in extreme cases varying ' 
from a yellow or slightly greenish yellow up to a bluish-green. 
Simler has constructed a simple and beautiful piece 
of apparatus, based on the singular property which living 
leaves have of reflecting abundantly the extreme red rays 
of the spectrum ; it is called an erythroscope. A plate of 
blue glass, stained with cobalt, is to be procured, having a 
thickness such that it will allow the extreme red of the 
spectrum to pass, but no orange or yellow ; it should also 
transmit the small band of greenish-yellow just before the 
fixed line E, and all the green from b to F> also all the blue 
and violet. A plate of rather deeply coloured yellow glass 
is also needed ; this should be capable of transmitting all 
the light of the spectrum from the farthest red up to G ; 
that is to say, it should cut off the violet and blue-violet 
only. When a sunny landscape is viewed through these 
two glasses, it assumes a most wonderful appearance : all 
green trees and plants shine with a coral-red colour, as 
though they were self-luminous ; the sky is cyan-blue,* the 
clouds purplish-violet ; the earth and rocks assume various 

* Cyan-bluc is a greenish-blue. 


tints of violet-grey. Pine-trees appear of a dark-red hue ; 
orange or yellow flowers become red or blood-red ; greens, 
other than those of the foliage, are seen in their natural 
tints, or at least only a little more bluish ; lakes preserve 
their fine blue-green colouring, and the play of light and 
shade over the landscape is left undisturbed ; the whole 
effect is as though a magician's -wand had passed over the 
scene, and transformed it into an enchanted garden. For 
the full realization of these effects it is essential that stray 
light should be prevented from reaching the eyes, and ac- 
cordingly the glasses should be mounted in an arrangement 
of wood or pasteboard -which adapts itself to the contours 
of the face, and excludes as much as possible diffuse light. 
On comparing the spectrum given by the blue and yellow 
glasses with that of green leaves, it will be found that the 
two glasses cut off almost all the green light furnished by 
the leaves, but allow those green rays of light to pass which 
the leaves are incapable of supplying. 

The colours which metals such as copper, brass, or gold 
display, are due to absorption. A quantity of white light 
is reflected from the real surface, but along with it is min- 
gled a certain amount which has penetrated a little distance 
into the substance of the metal, and there has undergone 
reflection ; this last portion is coloured. If we cause this 
mixture of white and coloured light to strike repeatedly on 
a metallic surface — for example, such as gold — we constant- 
ly increase the proportion of light which has penetrated 
under the surface, and has become coloured. A process of 
this kind takes place in the interior of a golden goblet ; 
hence the colour in the inside is deeper and more saturated 
than on the outside. Some metals, like silver or steel, hard- 
ly show much colour till the light has been made to strike 
repeatedly on their surfaces ; when this is done with sUver, 
the light gradually assumes a yellow colour, while with 
steel it becomes blue. 


The true colour of metals must not be confounded with 
that which is often given to them by the presence of a sur- 
face-film of oxide or sulphide ; such films cause for the 
most part a bluish appearance, though all the colours of the 
spectrum may be produced on metals in this way. In fact, 
the. hue in these cases is due to an interference of light 
caused by the thin layer of oxide, and is quite distinct from 
the actual colour of the metal. (See Chapter IV.) 

Metals, whether coloured or white, are chiefly remark- 
able for the large quantities of light which they are capable 
of reflecting. Measurements made by Lambert have shown 
that the total amount of light reflected by white paper is 
about forty per cent, of the light falling on it. Silver, 
however, is capable of reflecting ninety-two per cent. ; steel 
sixty per cent., etc. 

Polished surfaces, particularly of metals, have another 
property which adds to their apparent brilliancy, and in- 
creases their lustrous appearance. Those portions of the 
surface which are turned away from the light often reflect 
but little, and look almost black. This sharp contrast en- 
hances their brilliant, sparkling appearance, and raises them 
quite above the rank of surfaces coloured by pigments. In 
consequence of this, metals cannot be used along with pig- 
ments in serious or realistic painting ; they are quite out of 
harmony, and produce the impression that the painter has 
sought to help himself by a cheap trick rather than by em- 
ploying the true resources of art. In those cases where 
gold was so extensively used during the middle ages for 
the backgrounds of pictures of holy personages, or even for 
the adornment of their garments, the object was far more 
to produce symbolic than realistic representations, and here 
the presence of the gold was actually a help, as tending to 
convey the idea that the painting was not the portrait of an 
ordinary mortal, but rather a childlike attempt to depict 
and lavishly adorn the ideal image of a venerated and 
saintly character. On the other hand, this brilliancy of 


gold, with its rich colour, preeminently adapts it for the 
purposes of inclosing paintings and isolating them from sur- 
rounding objects. A painted frame or wooden frame, inas- 
much as its colour belongs to the same order as those con- 
tained in the picture, becomes as it were an extension of it, 
and is apt to injure the harmony of its colouring ; and, be- 
sides this, its power of isolation is inferior to that of gold, 
on account of its greater resemblance to ordinary surround- 
ing objects. 

Having now considered with some detail the colours 
that are produced by absorption, it may be well to add a 
few words concerning the attempts that have been made to 
reproduce colour by the aid of photography. Photographs 
render accurately the light and shade, why should they not 
also record the colours, of natural objects ? In 1848 E. 
Becquerel announced that he had been able to photograph 
the colours of a prismatic spectrum falling on a silver plate 
which had been treated with chlorine. These colors were 
quite fugitive, lasting only a few minutes. In 1850 Nifepce 
de Saint- Victor and in 1852 J. Campbell claimed that they 
had rendered these colours more permanent. In 1863 the 
former experimenter, by washing the finished plates with a 
solution of dextrin containing chloride of lead, obtained 
coloured pictures that lasted twelve hours. In the following 
year he still further improved his process, the colours last- 
ing three or four days in rather strong daylight. An ex- 
amination of the details of these memoirs and of the pic- 
tures indicates that the colours thus obtained are due to a 
greater or less reduction of the film of chloride of silver, 
and are, in fact, produced merely by the interference of 
light, and consequently have no necessary connection with 
the hues of the natural objects to which they seem to owe 
their origin. Hence we must regard this problem as un- 
solved, and in the present state of our knowledge there' 


does not seem to be any reason to suppose that it ever will 
be solved. Why should the red rays when acting on a cer- 
tain substance produce a red compound, the green and vio- 
let rays green and violet compounds, and so on with all the 
other coloured rays ? But photography in colour implies 
exactly this. 

This problem has more recently been handled in an en- 
tirely different manner, and with a more hopeful result, 
from a practical point. of view. Suppose we place a red 
glass before a photographic camera, and photograph some 
object with brilliant colours — a carpet, for example. We 
shall obtain an ordinary negative picture, which will be en- 
tirely due to the red light sent by the carpet toward the 
instrument. Portions of the carpet having a different col- 
our will not be photographed at all. Next let us hold be- 
fore the camera a glass which transmits only the yellow 
rays (if such glass could be found), and we shall obtain a 
picture of the yellow constituents of the carpet ; the same 
is to be done with a blue glass. From these three ordinary 
negatives, three positive pictures are to be made in gelatine, 
the first being colored with a transparent red pigment, the 
second with a yellow, the third with a blue pigment. The 
first sheet of gelatin will contain a red picture, due to the 
red parts of the carpet ; the second and third, similar yel- 
low and blue pictures. When these transparent coloured 
sheets are laid over each other, we shall have a picture cor- 
rect in drawing, which will roughly reproduce the cplom-s 
of the carpet. This gives an idea of the plan proposed in 
1869 by C. Cross and Ducos du Hauron, for the indirect 
reproduction of colour by photography. In actual practice 
the negatives were taken with glasses coloured orange, 
green, and violet ; these negatives were then made to yield 
blue, red, and yellow positive pictures. This process has 
been greatly improved by Albert, of Munich, and by Bier- 
stadt, of New York. In the final picture the gelatine is dis- 
pensed with, films of colour, laid on by lithographic stones, 



being substituted. The selection of the pigments is neces- 
sarily left to the judgment of the operator, and in its pres- 
ent state the process is better capable of dealing with the 
decided colours of designs made by the decorator than with 
the pale, evanescent tints of Nature. 


We give below a list of pigtoents whioli, according to Field and 
Linton, are not affected by the prolonged action of light, or by fonl 

True pearl-white. 


Indian red. 
Venetian red. 
Light red. 
Red ochre. 


Yellow ochre. 
Raw Sienna. 
Oxford ochre. 
Roman ochre. 
Stone ochre. 
Brown ochre. 

Indian ink. 

Orange vermilion. 
Jaune de Mars. 
Orange ochre. 
Burnt Sienna. 
Burnt Roman ochre. 

Oxide of chromium. 
Rinman's green. 

Blue ochre. 

Purple pchre. 
Violet de Mars. 

Rubens's brown. 
Vandyck brown. 
Raw umber. 
Burnt umber. 
Cassel earth. 
Cologne earth. 



White lead, smalt and cobalt-Wue ave not affected by light, but 
are by foul air. The last two are considered permanent in water- 
colour painting. 

According to Field, the tints of the following pigments are not 
affected by mixture with lime, consequently they are adapted for 
use in fresco-painting : 


Pure earths. 


Red lead. 
Red ochre. 
Light red. 
Venetian red. 
Indian red. 
Madder red. 


Indian yellow. 
Yellow ochre. 
Oxford ochre. 
Roman ocbre. 
Stone ochre. 
Brown ochre. 
Raw Sienna. 
Naples yellow. 


Black chalk. 

Orange vermilion. 
Orange ochre. 
Jaune de Mars. 
Burnt Sienna. 

Terre verte. 
Emerald green. 
Mountain green. 


Madder purple. 
Purple ochre. 

Vandyck brown. 
Bubens's brown. 
Raw umber. 
Burnt umber. 
Cassel earth. 
Cologne earth. 
Antwerp brown. 

As the effect of light on pigments is a matter of considerable 
importance to artists, particularly to those working with the thin 
washes used in water-colour painting, a careful experiment on this 


matter was made by the present writer. The washes laid on or- 
dinary drawing-paper were exposed during the summer to sunlight 
for more than three months and a half, and the effects noted ; these 
were as follows : 

Watek-colouk Pigments that are not affected by Light: 




Indian red. 

Jaune de Mars. 


Light red. 

Yellow ochre. 
Roman ochre. 




Terre verte. 


Burnt umber. 

French blue. 

Burnt Sienna. 


New blue. 

The following pigments were all more or less affected ; those 
that were very little changed head the list, which is arranged so as 
to indicate the relative amounts of damage suffered, the most fugi- 
tive colours being placed at its end : 

Chrome-yellow becomes slightly greenish. 

Red lead becomes slightly less orange. 

Naples yellow becomes slightly greenish brown. • 

Raw Sienna fades slightly ; becomes more yellowish. 

Vermilion becomes darker and brownish. 

Aureoline fades slightly. 

Indian yellow fades slightly. 

Antwerp blue fades slightly. 

Emerald green fades slightly. 

Olive green fades slightly, becomes more brownish. 

Rose madder fades slightly, becomes more purplish. 

Sepia fades slightly. 

Prussian blue fades somewhat. 

Hooker's green becomes more bluish. 

Gamboge fades and becomes more grey. 

Bistre fades and becomes more grey. 

Burnt madder fades sSmewhat. 

Neutral tint fades somewhat. 

Vandyok brown fades and becomes more grey. 

Indigo fades somewhat. 

Brown pink fades greatly. 


Violet carmine fades greatly, becomes brownish. 
Yellow lake fades greatly, becomes brownish. 
Crimson lake fades out. 
Carmine fades out. 

To this we may add that rose madder, burnt or brown madder, 
and purple madder, all, are a little affected by an exposure to sun- 
light for seventy hours. Pale washes of the following pigments 
were completely faded out hy a much shorter exposure to sunlight : 

Carmine, Yellow lake, Italian pink. 

Full red. Gall-stone, Violet carmine. 

Dragon's blood. Brown pink. 



We have considered now, with some detail, the various 
ordinary modes of producing the sensation of colour ; but, 
in order to render our account more complete, it is necessary 
to touch on some of the unusual or extraordinary methods. 
In every case examined thus far, the sensation of colour was 
generated by the action on the eye of coloured light — that 
is, of waves of light having practically a definite length. 
As colour, however, is only a sensation, and has no existence 
apart from the nervous organization of living beings, it may 
not seem strange to find that it can be produced by white 
as well as by coloured light, or even that it can be developed 
in total darkness, without the agency of light of any kind 
whatever. If the eyes be directed for a few m.oments to- 
ward a sheet of white paper placed on a black background 
and illuminated by sunlight, on closing them and excluding 
all light by the hands or otherwise, it will be found that 
the absence of the light does not at once cause the image 
of the paper to disappear. After the eyes are closed it will 
stiU be plainly visible for several seconds, and will at first 
be seen quite correctly, as a white object on a black ground ; 
the colour with some observers then changes to blue, green, 
red, and finally back to blue, the background remaining all 
the while black. After this first stage the background 
changes to white, the colour of the sheet of paper appearing 
blue-green, and finally yellow. Most of these colours are 


as distinct and decided as those of natural objects. If the 
experiment be made for a shorter time, and under a less 
brilliant illumination, the eyes being first well rested by- 
prolonged closure, the series of colours will be somewhat 
different. Fechner, Seguin, and Helmholtz observed that 
the original white colour passed rapidly through a greenish 
blue (Seguin, green). into a beautiful indigo-blue ; this af- 
terward changed into a violet or rose tint. These colours 
were bright and clear, afterward followed a dirty or grey 
orange ; during the presence of this colour the background 
changed from black to white, and the orange tint altered 
often into a dirty yellow-green which completed the series. 
If, instead of employing white, a coloured object on a grey 
ground is regarded intently for some time, the eyes will be 
so affected that, on suddenly removing the coloured object, 
the grey ground will appear tinged with a complementary 

Fio. 26.— Disk with Black and Fig. 27.— Black and White Spiral 

White Sectors for the Produo- on Disk, for the Production of 

tion of Subjective Colour. Subjective Colour. 

tint ; for example, if the object bo red, the after-image will 
be bluish green. It is not necessary to dwell longer on 
these phenomena at present, as a portion of Chapter XV. 
will be especially devoted to them. In both the cases men- 
tioned above, the colour develops itself after the eyes are.^. 
closed, or at least withdrawn from the illuminated surface. ■ 
There are, however, cases where very vivid colours can be 
seen while the eyes are exposed to full daylight. If a disk 



of cardboard painted witli alternate white and black sectors, 
like that shown in Fig. 26, be set in rotation while exposed 
to full daylight, colours will be seen after a few trials. It 
will be found that a certaui rate of rotation communicates 
to the disk a green hue, a somewhat more rapid rate causing 
it to assume a rose colour. According to Helmholtz, these 
effects are most easily attained by using a disk painted with 
a black spiral, like that in Fig. 27. These phenomena may 
be 9.dvantageously studied by a method which was used by 
the author several years ago. A "blackened disk with four 
open sectors seven degrees in width was set in revolution 
by clockwork, and a clouded sky viewed through it. With 

Fig. 28.— Subjective Colours 
seen in Sky, with aid of 

Kotating Bisk. 

Fia. 29.— Subjective Colours, Kinj, 
etc., seen in Sky witli aid of Eo- 
tating Disk. 

a rate of nine revolutions per second, the whole sky often 
appeared of a deep crimson hue, except a small spot in the 
centre of the field of view, which was pretty constantly yel- 
low. Upon increasing the velocity to eleven and a half 
revolutions per second, the central spot enlarged somewhat, 
and became coloured bluish green, with a narrow, faint, blue 
border, indicated by the dotted line ; the rest of the sky 
appeared purple, or reddish purple. (See Fig. 28.) With 
the exception of fluctuation's in the outline of the spot, this 
appearance remained tolerably constant as long as the rate 
of revolution was steadily maintained. When the velocity 



of the disk was increased, the bluish-green spot expanded 
into an irregularly shaped blue-green ring, which with a 
rate of fifteen turns per second mostly filled the whole field 
of view. (See Fig. 29.) With higher .rates all these ap- 
pearances vanished, and the sky was seen as with the naked 
eye.* More than one elaborate attempt has been made to 
found on phenomena of this class a theory of the production 
of colour, though it may easily be shown that in all such 
cases the disk really transmits not coloured but white light, 
and that the effects produced are due to an abnormal state 
of the retina caused by alternate exposure to light and 

A current of electricity is also capable of stimulating 
the optic nerve in such a way that brilliant colours are per- 
ceived, although the experiment is made in perfect dark- 
ness. If the cm-rent of a strong voltaic battery be caused 
to enter the forehead, and travel hence to the hand, accord- 
ing to Ritter, a bright-green or bright-blue colour is per- 
ceived, the hue depending on whether the positive cm-rent 
enters the hand or forehead. Helmholtz, in repeating this 
operation, was conscious simply of a wild rush of colours 
without order. The experiment is, however, interesting to 
us, as proving the possibility of the production of the sen- 
sation of colour without the presence or action of light. 

Recently a substance has been discovered which, when 
swallowed, causes white objects to appear coloured greenish 
yellow, and coloured objects to assume new hues. Persons 
under the influence of santonin cannot sec the violet end of 
the spectrum ; and this fact, with others, proves that they 
have become temporarily colour-blind to violet. 

An observation of Tait's, and others by the author, have 
shown that a shock of the nervous system may produce 
momentarily colour-blindness to green light. White objects 
then appear of a purplish red, and green objects of a much 

• "American Journal of Science and Arts," September, 1860. 


duller green hue than ordinarily.* These effects are eva- 
nescent, though quite interesting, as we shall see presently, 
from a theoretical point of view. 

Investigations during the present century have shown 
that many persons are born with a deficient perception of 
colour. In some the defect is slight and hardly noticeable, 
while in others it is so serious as to lead to quite wonderful 
blunders. This imperfection -of vision is often inherited 
from a parent, and may be shared by several members of 
the same family. It is remarkable that women are com- 
paratively free from it, even when belonging to families of 
which the male members are thus affected. The occupations 
of women, their attention to dress and to various kinds of 
handiwork where colour enters in as an important element, 
seem to have brought their sense for colour to a higher de- 
gree of perfection than is the case with men, who ordinarily 
neglect cultivation in this direction. Out of forty-one 
young men in a gymnasium, Seebeck found five who were 
colour-blind ; but during his whole investigation he was 
able to learn of only a single case where a woman was to 
some extent similarly affected. It not unf requently happens 
that persons with this defect remain for years unconscious 
of it. This was the case with some of the young men in- 
vestigated by Seebeck ; and in one remarkable instance a 
bystander, in attempting to help a colour-blind person who 
was under investigation, showed that he was himself colour- 
blind, but belonged to another class ! The commonest case 
is a deficient perception of red. Such persons make no dis- 
tinction between rose-red and bluish-green. They see in 
the spectrum only two colours, which they call yellow and 
blue. Under the name yellow they include the red, orange, 
yellow, and green spaces : the blue and violet they name, 
with some correctness, blue. In the middle of the spectrum 

* "American Journal of Science and Arts," January, ISY'?. A similar 
observation by Charles Pierce was communicated to the author while this 
work was going through the press. 


there, is for them a neutral or grey zone, which has no 
colour ; this, according to Preyer, is situated near the line 
F. For the normal eye it is greenish-blue ; for them, white. 
The extreme red of the spectrum, when it is faint, they fail 
to distinguish ; the rest of the red space appears to them of 
a saturated but not luminous green ; the yellow space has 
for them a colour which we should call bright green ; and 
finally, they see blue in the normal manner. Maxwell found 
that by the aid of his disks, using only two colours, along 
with white and black, he was able, by suitable variations in 
their proportions, to match for them any colour which pre- 
sented itself ; while the normal eye requires at least three 
such coloured disks, besides white and black. His experi- 
ments led to the result that persons of this class perceive 
two of the three fundamental colours which are seen by the 
normal eye. Helmholtz also arrived at the same result. It 
is possible to render the nonnal eye to some extent colour- 
blind to red in the manner followed by Seebeck in 1837, and 
afterward by Maria Bokowa. These observers wore for 
several hours spectacles provided with ruby-red glasses ; 
and this prolonged action of the red light on the eye finally, 
to a considerable extent, tired out the nerve fibrils destined 
for the reception of red, so that on removing the glasses they 
saw in the spectrum only two colours. The second observer 
called them yellow apd blue. Furthermore, the extreme 
red end of the spectrum was not visible to her, just as is the 
case with those who are actually blind to red ; all red objects 
appeared to her yellow, and dark red was not distinguishable 
from dark green or brown. 

Dalton, the celebrated English chemist, suffered from 
this defect of vision, and was the first to give an accurate 
description of it ; hence this affection is sometimes named 
after him, Daltonism. It is very remarkable that, accord- 
ing to the observations of Schelske and Helmholtz, even in 
the normal eye there are portions which are naturally colour- 
blind to red, and when this zone of the eye is used the same 


mistakes in matching colours are made. Such experiments 
are somewhat difficult to make without considerahle prac- 
tice, as it is necessary that the colored objects should be 
viewed, not directly, but by the eye turned aside somewhat. 
There is a simple means by which persons who are colour- 
blind to red can to some extent help themselves, and prevent 
the occurrence of coarse chromatic blunders, such as con- 
fusing red with green. Green glass does not transmit red 
light ; hence, on viewing green and red objects through a 
plate of this glass it will be found, even by persons who are 
colour-blind, that the red objects appear much more dark- 
ened than those which are green. On the other hand, a red 
glass will cause green objects to appear darker, but will not 
affect the luminosity of those having a tint similar to itself. 
The exact tints of the glasses are important, and they should 
of course be selected with the aid of a normal eye. 

The kind of colour-blindness just described is rather 
common, and it has been estimated that in England about 
one person in eighteen is more or less afflicted with it. We 
pass on now to the consideration of a class of cases that is 
more rare. Persons belonging to this second class see only 
two colours in the spectrum, which they call red and blue. 
They set the greatest luminosity in the spectrum in the 
yellow space, as is done by the normal eye ; and they easily 
distinguish between red and violet, but confuse green with 
yellow and blue with red. In two cases examined by Preyer, 
yellow appeared to them as a bright red ; this same observer 
also found that in the spectrum, near the line h, the two 
colours into which they divided the spectrum were separated 
by a small neutral zone, which was for them identical with 
grey. A sufficient number of observations have not been 
accumulated to furnish means of ascertaining with certainty 
the exact nature of the difficulty under which they labour, 
though it is probable that they are colour-blind to green 
light. There are also observations on record of cases of 
temporary colour-blindness of a third kind, where the violet 


end of the spectrum was seen shortened to a very remark- 
able extent ; and if it should prove that the cause was of a 
nervous character, rather than due to a deeper yellow col- 
ouration of the axial portions of the retina, this would 
demonstrate the existence of violet colour-blindness. 

The subject of colour-blindness is one of considerable 
iniportance from a practical point of view, and this defect 
has no doubt been the occasion of railroad accidents. In 
1873-75 Dr. Favre, in France, examined one thousand and 
fifty railroad officials of various grades, and found among 
them ninety-eight pei-sons who were colour-blind — that is, 
9"33 per cent. In 1876 Professor Holmgren, in Sweden, 
examined the entire personnel of the Upsala-Gefle line, and 
out of two hundred and sixty-six persons ascertained that 
thirteen were colour-blind. These were found in every 
grade of the service, many of them being required daUy to 
make use of coloured signals. It is singular that in no case 
nad there been previously any suspicion of the existence of 
the defect. For further information with regard to the 
practical side of this matter, the reader is referred to the 
essay of Holmgren, which will be found in the Smithsonian 
Report for 1877 : a French translation also exists. 

In concluding this subject, it may not be amiss to allude 
to the very remarkable case described by Huddart, of a 
shoemaker, an intelligent man, where only a trace of the 
power to distinguish colours seemed to remain.* According 
to the observations, he was colour-blind to both red and 
green, and in general seems to have had hardly any percep- 
tion of colour, as distinguished from light and shade. Curi- 
ously enough, recent observations of Woinow show that 
even in the normal eye there is a condition like this at the 
farthest limit of the visible field of view ; here all distinc- 
tions of colour vanish, and objects look merely white or 
black, or grey. It is probable that between the case of 

* " Philosophical Transactions," Ixvii. 


Harris, just mentioned, and that of a normal eye possessed 
of the maximum power of perceiving and distinguishing 
colours, a great number of intermediate gradations will be 
found to exist. Slight chromatic defects of yision generally 
receive no attention, or are explained in some other way. 
The writer recalls the case of an excellent physicist who 
for many years had a half suspicion that he was to some 
extent colour-blind, but rather preferred to explain the dis- 
crepancies by the assumption of a difference in nomencla- 
ture. Taking up the matter at last seriously, be made an 
investigation of his own case, and found that he actually 
was to some extent colour-blind to red. It has been sug- 
gested that the very inferior colouring of some otherwise 
great artists can be accounted for by supposing them to 
have been affected with partial colour-blindness ; this idea 
is plausible, but, as it appears to us, totally without proof. 
There are great numbers of persons who are able to hear 
distinctly all the notes employed in music, who yet have no 
talent for it and no enjoyment of it. On the other hand, 
we know of cases of persons who from infancy have been 
afflicted with partial deafness, and have nevertheless been 
musicians, and even composers. It is the same in painting 
as in music : the possession of a perfect organ is not by any 
means the first necessity, and it can be proved that even 
artists who are actually colour-blind to red may still, with 
but slight external aid, produce paintings which are univer- 
sally prized for their beautiful colouring. Their field of 
operations is of course more restricted, and they are com- 
pelled to avoid certain chromatic combinations. During 
the evening, by gas- or lamp-light, we are all somewhat in 
the condition of persons who are colour-blind to violet ; but 
yet, with precautions and some patience, it is possible to 
execute works in colour, even at this time, which afterward 
stand the test of daylight. It would appear probable, then, 
that the difficulty with the inferior colourists above alluded 
to was not so much anatomical or physiological as psychical. 


According to a theory recently proposed by Hugo Mag- 
nus, our sense for colour has been developed during the last 
four or five thousand years ; previous to this period it is 
assumed that our race was endowed only with a perception 
of light and shade. The evidence which is offered is of a 
philological character, and tends to show that the ancients 
either distinguished or described colours less accurately 
than the modems. The same kind of reasoning might be 
applied to proving that children at the present day have 
but little power of distinguishing tints, as they usually 
scarcely notice any but the most intense colours. When, 
however, we study the prehistoric races at present existing 
on the globe, and living in the same style as their ancestors, 
we find them quite capable of discriminating colours, and 
often very fond of them. Going many steps lower, we 
meet with animals that have the power of perceiving and 
even imitating a series of colours with accuracy. This is 
the case with the chameleon, as shown by P. Bert, and also, 
according to Pouchet and A. Agassiz, with certain kinds of 
flounders. The skin of the chameleon is provided with an 
immense number of minute sacs filled with red, yellow, and 
black liquids ; the animal has the power of distending these 
star-like vesicles at pleasure, and thus adjusts its colour in 
a few minutes (after a series of trials) so as to match that 
of the surface on which it is placed. Its chromatic scale 
covers red, orange, yellow, and olive-green, and the mix- 
tures of these colours with black, which includes of course 
an extensive series of browns. The olive-green is made by 
distending the yellow and black sacs, the effect being simi- 
lar to that obtained by combining a black and yellow disk. . 
(See Chapter XII.) 

Corresponding to this, A. Agassiz has often noticed, 
when a young flounder was transferred from a jar imitating 
in colour a sandy bottom to one of- a dark-chocolate hue, 
that in less than ten minutes the black-pigment cells would 
obtain a great preponderance, and cause it to appear wholly 


unlike the yellowish-grey speckled creature which a few 
moments before had so perfectly simulated the appearance 
of sand. When removed to a gravelly bottom, the spots 
on the side became prominent. 

If our sense for light and shade is old, but that for 
colour recent and still undergoing development, we should 
perhaps expect that it would require more time to recog- 
nize colour than appearances dependent simply on light 
and shade ; but, according to the experiments of the writer, 
forty billionths of a second answers as well for one as for 
the other act of perception.* 

In closing this chapter, it may be well, to mention a very 
simple but beautiful experiment, by which we all can easily 
place ourselves in a condition somewhat like that of Harris, 
where all or nearly all sensation of colour had vanished. 
If some carbonate of soda be ignited in the flame of a Bun- 
sen burner, it will furnish an abundance of pure homoge- 
neous light of an orange-yellow hue. This light is quite 
bright enough to illuminate objects in a darkened room, 
but all distinctions of colours vanish, light and shade only 
remaining. A red rose exhibits no more colour than its 
leaves ; gayly painted strips of paper show only as black or 
white or grey ; their colours can not even be guessed at. 
The human face divested of its natural colour assumes an 
appearance which is repulsive, and the eye in the absence 
of colour dwells on slight defects in the clearness and 
smoothness of the complexion. If now an ordinary gas- 
burner be placed near the soda flame, and allowed at first 
.to burn with only a small flame, objects will resume their 
natural tints to some slight extent, and begin again faintly 
to clothe themselves with pleasant hues, which will deepen 
as more light is furnished, till they finally seem fairly to 

* The amount of time necessary for Tision. " American Journal of Sci- 
ence," September, 1871. 



glow with radiant beauty. Those who have never wit- 
nessed an experiment of this kind have but little conception 
how great would be to us the loss of our sense for colour, 
or how dreary the world would seem, divested of the fasci- 
nating charm which it casts over all things. 


Maxwell has published an account of his rather elaborate 
examination of the case of one of his students, who was colour- 
blind to red.* ■ An apparatus was employed by which the pure 
colours of the spectrum could be mixed in any proportion ; these 
colours were then mingled by the colour-blind person, in such a 
proportion as to produce to his eyes the effect of white. In this 
way the following equation was obtained: 33-7 green + 33-1 blue 
= white. Maxwell then, employing the same colours, obtained his 
own or a normal equation, which was ; 26 green + ST'-i blue + 22'6 
red = white. If we combine these equations by subtraotipn, we 
obtain : 32'6 red — 7'7 green + 4'3 blue = D ; D being the missing 
colour not perceived by the colour-blind. The sensation, then. 






Fig. so.— Curves of a Colour-blind Person. (Maxwell.) 

which Maxwell had in addition to those of the colour-blind person 
was somewhat like that of a full red, but different from it in that 
the full red was mixed with 7'7 green, which had to be removed 
from it, and 4'3 of blue substituted. The missing colour, then, ac- 
cording to this experiment, was a crimson-red. Even normal eyes 
vary a little, and, if this examination had been made by Maxwell's 

* " Philosophical Transactions " for 1860, vol. cl., p. 78. 



assistant (observer K), the result would have been a red mixed with 
less blue, consequently a colour much more like the red of the 
spectrum. From experiments of this kind Maxwell was able to 
construct the curves of intensity of the two fundamental colours 
which are perceived by those who are colour-blind to red ; these 
curves are shown in Fig. 30. The letters A, B, 0, D, etc., mark 
the positions of the fixed lines in the solar spectrum ; the curved 
line marked GE exhibits the intensity of the green element, the 
line marked BL that of the blue or violet. It wUl be noticed that 
the green sensation attains its maximum about half way between 
the lines D and E, that is, in the yellowish green; whUe the high- 
est point of the other curve is about half way between F and G, 
that is, in the blue space. Maxwell also constructed similar inten- 
&ity curves for a normal eye; they are represented in Fig. 31, the 



\ Gff. 



Fig. 81. — Curves of Normal Eye. (Maxwell.) 

curve for red being indicated by a heavy Une, the others as above. 
The green and blue curves have about the same disposition as with 
the colour-blind person, whUe the red attains its maximum between 
and D, but nearer D — ^that is, in the red-orange space. 

A set of observations was also made by Maxwell on the same 
colour-blind gentleman, with the aid of coloured disks in rapid ro- 
tation ; and, from the colour equations thus obtained, the positions 
of the colours perceived by him were laid down in Newton's dia- 
gi-aro, in a manner similar to that explained in the appendix to 
Chapter XIV. In Fig. 32, V shows the position assumed for red 
or vermilion ; U, that of ultramarine- blue ; and G,. that of emerald- 


green. They are placed according to Maxwell's method, at the 
three angles of an equilateral triangle. W would be the position of 
white for a normal eye, and Y that of chrome-yellow. D is the 
position of the defective colour, which Maxwell was able to imitate 
by mingling, by the method of rotating disks, 86 parts of vermilion 
and 14 of ultramarine-blue. A line drawn from D through W con- 
tains along its length the various shades of grey and the white of 
the colour-blind. The grey which they perceive when green and 

Fia.82.— Newton'B Dlwram for a Person Fio. 88.— Newton's Diagram for a Per- 

Colour-blind to Red. (Maxwell.) son Oolour-bllnd to the Fundamental 


blue are mixed lies at w; the white of white paper, i. e., a more 
luminous grey, was on the same line but considerably farther along 

It may pei'haps be as well to add to the above one or two re- 
marks concerning the construction of Newton's diagram for the 
colour-blind. Let us suppose that the pure colours of the spectrum 
are employed, and that the missing colour is the fundamental red ; 
we then place the fundamental green at G, Fig. 33, the fundamental 
blue or violet at U, and the missing red at D. Then along the line 
U Q- will lie mixtures of blue and green, and at w will be the white 
of the colour-blind person. Along the line D G will be situated 
various shades of green, from dark green to bright green, the latter 
colour predominating as we approaolj G. Along the line D U we 
shall have various shades of blue, from bright blue to dark blue, 
the colour being very dark near D and very bright near U. A line 
like the dotted one (Fig. 33) will contain various shades of green, 
fi'om light green to dark green, but none of them so intense as 


those situated along the line D G- ; in other words, they all will be 
mingled with what the colour-blind call white. 

If the defective colour-sensation is supposed still red, but to be 
only partially absent, the diagram takes the form indicated in Fig. 34: ; 
that is, red, instead of occupying the position at one of the angles 
of an equilateral triangle, wiU be moved up toward the centre to E'. 
White will also be shifted from W to w, and the white of a person 
thus affected would appear to the normal eye of a somewhat green- 
ish-blue hue. Between D and K' lie, so to speak, mixtures of red 
with darkness, and along the line E' G- wiU be various mixtures 
of red and green, in which, according to a normal eye, the green 
element quite predominates ; that is to say, their orange is more 

Fig. 84. — Newton^B Diagram for a Per- Fig. 35. — ^Newton's Diagram for Lamp- 

fion partially Colour-blind to Bed. light Illuxninatlon. 

like our yellow, their yellow like our greenish yellow, etc. Along 
the line E' U will be their mixtures of red and blue, or a series of 
purples, which will be more bluish than ours. 

The condition of the normal eye by lamp-light is shown in Fig. 
35. The blue or violet is moved from U, its position by daylight, 
up to M ; white is moved from W to w — that is, into a region that 
would be called by daylight yellow. Yellow itself, T, is not far 
Irom this new representative of white, and consequently by candle- 
light appeal's always whitish. In the purples, along the line E u, 
the red element predominates ; and in the mixtures of green and 
blue, along the line G u, the green constituent has the upper hand. 

If we were colour-blind to every kind of light except red, then 
the colour diagram would assume a form similar to that shown in 
Fig. 86, D representing the darkest red perceptible to eyes so consti- 
tuted. This sensation would be brought about by pure feeble red 



light, or by a mixture of intense green and blue light, or by either 
of the latter. As we advance from D toward E, the red light 
gains in brightness, and out at v> becomes very bright and stands 
for white. When a red glass is held before the eyes, something 
approximating to this kind of vision is produced. 

Fio. 86,— Newton's Diagram for Persons Colonr-bltod to Green and Violet. 



It is well known to painters tliat approximate represen- 
tations of all colours can be produced by the use of very- 
few pigments. Three pigments or coloured powders wUl 
suifiee, a red, yellow, and a blue ; for example, crimson- 
lake, gamboge, and Prussian blue. The red and yeUow 
mingled in various proportions will furnish different shades 
o^ orange and orange-yeUow ; the blue and yellow will 
give a great variety of greens ; the red and blue aU the 
purple and violet hues. There have been instances of 
painters in water-colours who used only these three pig- 
ments, adding lampblack for the purpose of darkening them 
and obtaining the browns and greys. Now, though it is 
not possible in this way to obtain as brilliant representatives 
of the hues of nature as with a less economical palette, yet 
substitutes of a more or less satisfactory character can actu- 
ally be produced in this manner. These facts have been 
known to painters from the earliest ages, and furnished the 
foundation for the so-called theory of three primary colours, 
red, yellow, and blue. The most distinguished defender in 
modern times of this theory was Sii- David Brewster, so 
justly celebrated for his many and brilliant optical discov- 
eries. He maintained that there were three original or fun- 
damental kinds of light, red, yellow, and blue, and that by 
their mixture in various proportions all other kinds of col- 
oured light were produced, in the manner just described for 
pigments. Brewster in fact thought he had demonstrated 


the existence in the spectrum itself of these three sets of 
fundamental rays, as well as the absence of all others ; and 
his great reputation induced most physicists for more than 
twenty years to adopt this view, Airy, Melloni, and Draper 
alone dissenting. This theory of the existence of three 
fundamental kinds of light, red, yellow, and blue, is found 
in all except the most recent text books on physics, and is 
almost universally believed by artists.- Nevertheless, it 
will not be diiEcult to show that it is quite without founda- 
tion. If we look at the matter from a theoretical point of 
view, we reach at once the conclusion that it can not be 
true, because outside of ourselves there is no such thing as 
colour, which is a mere sensation that varies with the 
length of the wave producing it. Outside of and apart from 
ourselves, light consists only of waves, long and short — in 
fact, of mere mechanical movements ; so that Brewster's 
theory would imply that there were in the spectrum only 
three sets of waves having three different lengths, which 
we know is not the case. If we take up the matter experi- 
mentally, we meet with no better result. According to the 
theory now under consideration, green light is produced by 
mixing blue and yellow light. This point can be tested 

Fig. 87.~MaxweIl'8 Disks. Blue and Yellow Disks in the Act of being combined. 

with Maxwell's coloured disks. A circular disk, painted 
with chrome-yellow and provided with a radial slit, is to be 
combined with one prepared in the same way and painted 
with ultramarine-blue. Fig. 37 shows the separate disks, 
and in Pig. 38 they are seen in combination. If the com- 
pound disk be now set in quite rapid rotation, the two kinds 



of coloured light will be mmgled, and the resultant tint can 
be studied. It will not be green, but yellowish grey or 

Fig. 88— Blue and Yellow Disks in Combination. 

reddish grey, according to the proportions of the two col- 
ours. These disks of Maxwell are ingeniously contrived so 
as to allow the experimenter to mingle the two colours in 

Fio. 89.— Apparatus of Lambert for mixing Coloured Light. 

any desired proportion ; but, vary the proportions as we 
may, it is impossible to obtain a resultant green hue, or in- 


deed anything approaching it. Another way of making 
this experiment is simply to use a fragment of window-glass 
of good quality, as was done by Lambert and Helmholtz. 
This apparatus is shown in Fig. 39. The glass is supported 
in a vertical position about ten inches above a board painted 
black, and on either side of it are placed the coloured 
papers. The blue paper is seen directly through the glass, 
while the light from the yellow paper is first reflected from 
the glass and then reaches the eye. The result is that the 
two images are seen superimposed, as is indicated in Fig. 
40. The relative luminosity or brightness of the two im- 


Fio. 40.— Eesutt furnished by the Apparatus. 

ages can be varied at will ; for instance, moving the papers 
further apart causes the blue to predominate, and bringing 
them nearer together produces the reverse effect. In this 
manner the resultant tint may be made to run through a 
variety of changes, which will entirely correspond to those 
obtained with the two circular disks ; but, as before, no 
tendency to green is observed. Helmholtz has pushed this 
matter still further, and has studied the resultant hues pro- 
duced by combining together the pure colours of the spec- 
trum. The following experiment, which is easy to make, 
will give an idea of the mode of proceeding : A blackened 
screen of pasteboard is pierced with two narrow slits, ar- 
ranged like those in Fig. 41. The light from a window is 
allowed to shine through the two slits and to fall on a prism 
of glass placed just before the eye, and distant from the 
slits about a metre. Then, as would be expected, each slit 



furnishes a prismatic spectrum, and owing to the disposition 
of the slits, the two spectra will overlap as shown in Fig. 
"42, which represents the red space of one spectrum falling 

Fig. 41.— Two Slits arranged for mixing Two Spectra. 

on the green space of its companion. By moving the slits fur- 
ther apart or nearer together, all the different kinds of light 
which the spectrum contains may thus be mingled. Using 
a more refined apparatus, Helmholtz proved that the union 
of the pure blue with the pure yellow light of the spectrum 
produced in the eye the sensation, not of green, but of 
white light. Other highly interesting results were also 
obtained by him- during this investigation ; these will be 


0. > 











Wm. 42.— Two Overlapping Spectra. Bed and Green are mixed, also Violet and Blue, etc. 

considered in the following chapter, but in the mean while 
it is evident that this total failure of blue and yellow light 
to produce by their mixture green light is necessarily fatal 


to the hypothesis of Brewster. Helmholtz also studied the 
nature of the appearances which misled the great English 
optician, and showed that they were due to the fact that he 
had employed an impure spectrum, or one not entirely free 
from stray white light. 

As has been remarked above, there can be in an objec- 
tive sense no such thing as three fundamental colours, or 
three primary kinds of coloured light. In a totally differ- 
ent sense, however, something of this kind is not only pos- 
sible, but, as the recent advances of science show, highly 
probable. We have already seen in a previous chapter that 
in the sp^lar spectrum the eye can distinguish no less than 
a thousand different tints. Every small, "minute, almost 
invisible portion of the retina of the eye possesses this 
power, which leads us to ask whether each atom of the ret- 
ina is supplied with an immense number of nerve fibrils for 
the reception and conveyance of this vast number of sensa- 
tions. The celebrated Thomas Young adopted another 
view : according to him, each minute elementary portion of 
the retina is capable of receiving and transmitting three 
different sensations ; or we may say that each elementary 
portion of its surface is supplied with three nerve fibrils, 
adapted for the reception of three sensations. One set of 
these nerves is strongly acted on by long waves of light, 
and produces the sensation we call red ; another set re- 
sponds most powerfully to waves of medium length, produc- 
ing the sensation which we call green ; and finally, the third 
set is strongly stimulated by short waves, and generates 
the sensation known as violet. The red of the spectrum, 
then, acts powerfully on the first set of these nerves ; but, 
according to Young's theory, it also acts on the two other 
sets, but with less energy. The same is true of the green 
and violet rays of the spectrum : they each act on all three 
sets of nerves, but most powerfully on those especially 
designed for their reception. All this will be better un- 
derstood by the aid of the accompanying diagram, which is 



taken from Helmholtz's great work on " Physiological Op- 
tics." In* Fig. 43, along the horizontal lines 1, 2, 3 are 

Fig. 43. — Curves showing the Action of the Different Colours of the Spectrum on the 
Three Sets of Nerve Fibrils. (Helmholtz.) 

placed the colours of the spectrum properly arranged, and 
the curves above them indicate the degree to which the 
three kinds of nerves are acted on by these colours. Thus 
we see that nerves of the first kind are p'owerf ully stimu- 
lated by red light, are much less affected by yellow, still 
less by green, and very little by violet light. Nerves of 
the second kind are much affected by green light, less by 
yellow and blue, and still less by red and violet. The third 
kind of nerves answer readily to violet light, and are suc- 
cessively less affected by other kinds of light in the follow- 
ing order : blue, green, yellow, orange, red. The next 
point in the theory is that, if all three sets of nerves are 
simultaneously stimulated to about the same degree, the 
sensation which we calt white will be produced. These are 
the main points of Young's theory, which was published as 
long ago as 1802, and more fully in 1807. Attention has 
within the last few years been called to it by Helmholtz, 
and it is mainly owing to his labours and those of Maxwell 
that it now commands such respectful attention. Before 
making an examination of the evidence on which it rests, 


and of its applications, it may be well to remember, as 
Helmholtz remarks, tbat the choice of these three particular 
colours, red, green, and violet, is somewhat arbitrary, and 
that any three could be chosen which when mixed together 
would furnish white light. If, however, the end and mid- 
dle colours of the spectrum (red, violet, and green) are not 
selected, then one of the three must have two maxima, one 
in the red and the other in the violet ; which is a more 
complicated, but not an impossible supposition. The only 
known method of deciding this point is by the investigation 
of those persons who are colour-blind. In the last chapter 
it was shown that the most common kind of this affection 
is colour-blindness to red, which indicates this colour as 
being one of the three fundamental sensations. But, if we 
adopt red as one of our three fundamental colours, of 
necessity the other two must be green and violet or blue- 
violet. Red, yellow, and blue, for example, will not pro- 
duce white light when mingled together, nor will they 
under any circumstances furnish a green. Red, orange, 
and blue or violet would answer no better for a fundamental 
triad. In the preceding chapter it was also shown that 
colour-blindness to green exists to some extent, though by 
no means so commonly as the other case. Hence, thus far, 
the study of colour-blindness has furnished evidence in 
favour of the choice of Young, and its phenomena seem 
explicable by it. 

Let us now examine the explanation which the theory 
of Young furnishes of the production of the following 
colour- sensations, which are not fundamental, viz. : 








Starting with yellow, we find that,. according to the theory 
under consideration, it should be produced by the joipt 

* Cyan-blue is a greenish-blue. 


stimulation of the red and green nerves ; consequently, if 
we present simultaneously to the eye red and green light, 
the sensation produced ought to be what we call yellow. 
This can be most perfectly accomplished by mixing the red 
and green light of the spectrum ; it is possible in this way 
to produce a fair yellow tint. The method of rotating 
disks furnishes, when emerald-green and vermilion are em- 
ployed, a yellow which appears rather dull for two reasons : 
first, because the pigments which we call yellow, such as 
chrome-yellow or gamboge, are, as wUl hereafter be shown, 
relatively more brilliant and luminous than any of the -red, 
green, blue, or violet pigments in use ; so that these bright- 
yellow pigments stand in a separate class by themselves. 
This circumstance influences our judgment, and, finding the 
resultant yellow far less brilliant than our (false) standard, 
chrome-yellow, we are disappointed. The second reason is, 
that green light stimulates, as before mentioned, the violet 
as well as the green nerves ; hence all three sets of nerves 
are set in action to a noticeable extent, and the sensation of 
yellow is mingled with that of white, and consequently is 
less intense than it otherwise would be. When the green 
and red of the spectrum are mingled, we have at least not 
to contend with a false standard, and only the second reason 
comes into play, and causes the yellow thus produced to 
look as though mingled with a certain quantity of white. 
It was found by the lamented J. J. Mtiller that green light 
when mingled with any other coloured light of the spec- 
trum diminished its saturation, and caused it to look as 
though at the same time some white light had been added. 
This is what our fundamental diagram (Fig. 43) would lead 
us to expect ; it is quite in consonance with the theory of 
Young and Helmholtz. 

Having now accounted for the fact that the yellow pro- 
duced by mixing red and green light is not particularly 
brilliant, it will be easy to show how several of the other 
colour-sensations are generated. If, for instance, we dhnin- 


ish the intensity of the green light in the experiment above 
mentioned, the resultant hue will change from yellow to 
orange, red-orange, orange-red, and iSnally to pure red. 
These changes are best followed by using the coloured 
light of the spectrum, but may also be traced by the help 
of Maxwell's disks (Fig. 38), or by the aid of the glass 
plate of Helmholtz (Fig. 39). On the other hand, if, in 
the experiment now under consideration, the green light be 
made to preponderate, the resultant yellow hue will pass 
into greenish yellow, yellowish green, and finally green. 
This accounts for the production of more than half the col- 
our-sensations in the list above given, and the remaining 
ones, such as ultramarine, cyan-blue, and bluish green, can 
be produced in the same way by mingling in proper pro- 
portions green and violet light, using any of the methods 
above mentioned. 

In the cases thus far considered we have presented to 
the eye mixtures of two different kinds of coloured light, 
or, to speak more accurately, two kinds of light differing in 
wave-length ; it now remains for us to account for the pro- 
duction of colour-sensations in those cases where the eye is 
acted on only by one kind of coloured light, or by light 
having one wave-length. In the case of red, green, or vio- 
let light, the explanation of course lies on the surface : the 
red light stimulates powerfully the red nerves and produces 
the sensation we call red, and so of the others. But this 
does not quite exhaust the matter ; for, according to the 
theory of Young and Helmholtz, this same red light also 
acts to some extent on the green and violet nerves, and si- 
multaneously produces to some small degree the sensations 
we call green and violet. The result then, according to the 
theory, ought to be the production of a strong red sensa- 
tion, mingled with much weaker green and violet sensa- 
tions ; or, in other words, even when the eye is acted on by 
the pure red light of the spectrum, this red light ought to 
appear as though mingled with a little white light, even if 


none is actually present. Experiment confirms this theo- 
retical conclusion, and here again decides in favour of the 
correctness of our theory. The simplest way of making 
the experiment would be to temporarily remove, were it 
possible, the green and violet nerves froin a portion of the 
retina of the eye, and then to throw on the whole retina the 
pure red light of the spectrum. This red light ought then 
to appear more intense and saturated when falling on the 
spot from which the green and violet nerves had been re- 
moved than when received on the rest of the retina, where 
all three kinds of nerves were present. Now, though we 
can not actually remove the green and violet nerves from a 
spot in the retina, yet we can by suitable means tire them 
out, or temporarily exhaust them, so that they become to 
a considerable extent insensitive. If a small spot of the 
retina be exposed for a few moments to a mixture of green 
and violet light so combined as to appear bluish green, the 
green and violet nerves will actually become to a consider- 
able extent inoperative ; and, when the eye is suddenly 
turned to the red of the spectrum, this spot of the retina 
will, if we may use the expression, experience a more 
powerful and purer sensation of red than the surrounding 
unfatigued portions, where the red will look as if diluted 
with a certain amount of white light. From this experi- 
ment of Helmholtz it appears, then, that it is actually pos- 
sible to produce by artificial means colour-sensations which 
are more powerful than those ordinarily generated by the 
light of the spectrum — a point to which we shall return in 
the following chapter. 

Having accounted now for the production of the colour- 
sensations red, green, and violet by red, green, and violet 
light, and noticed an interesting peculiarity connected with 
this matter, we pass on to the others. Taking up the yel- 
low of the spectrum, we find that it can be produced by the 
action on the eye of waves of light intermediate in length 
between those which give the sensations red and green. 


These waves are too short to act very powerfully on the 
red nerves, and too long to set into maximum activity the 
green nerves, but they set both into moderate action ; the 
result of this joint action of the two sets is a new sensation, 
which we call yellow. Furthermore, it may be remarked 
that the waves of the light called yellow are far too long to 
produce any but a feeble effect on the violet nerves ; they 
affect them less than green light does. Prom this it results 
that the sensation of yellow, when directly produced by 
the yellow light of the spectrum, is less mingled with that 
of white, and is purer than is the case when it is brought 
about by mixing red light with green in the manner before 
described. And this explanation may serve to account for 
the fact that it is impossible, by mixtures of red and green 
light taken from the spectrum, to produce a yellow light as 
pure and brilliant as the yellow of the spectrum. Let iis 
suppose, in the next place, that, instead of presenting to 
the eye the yellow of the spectrum, we act on it by the 
light belonging to one of the other spaces — the blue, for 
example. The explanation is almost identical with that 
just given for the yellow : the waves constituting blue light 
being too short to powerfully affect the green nerves, and 
too long to accomplish this with the violet nerves, both 
green and violet nerves are moderately affected, giving the 
sensation we call blue. Meanwhile the blue light produces 
very little action on the red nerves, and hence very little of 
the sensation of white is mingled with that of blue ; and 
consequently this blue hue is more saturated than when 
produced by the actual mixture of green and violet light. 
In fact, J. J. Mtlller found that green light, when mingled 
with light from any other part of the spectrum, produced a 
hue which was less saturated and more whitish than the 
corresponding tint in the spectrum which the mixture imi- 
tated. The production of all the other colour-sensations 
obtained by looking at the spectrum is explained in the 
same way by our theory. From all this one interesting 


conclusion can he drawn, viz. : that there are two distinct 
ways of producing the same colour-sensation ; for we have 
seen that it may be accomplished either by presenting to 
the eye a mixture of green and yiolet light, or simply one 
kind of light, the waves of which are intermediate in length 
between those of green and violet. The eye is quite unable 
to detect this difference of origin, although a prism reveals 
it instantly. 

Having examined thus, with a degree of detail which 
may have seemed tedious, the mode in which colour-sensa- 
tions are accounted for by the theory of Young and Helm- 
holtz, we pass to another point. In order to give more 
exactness to this theory, it is necessary to define with some 
degree of accuracy the three fundamental colours ; for there 
is a great variety of reds, greens, and violets. Helmholtz, 
as the result of his first investigation, selected a red not far 
from the end of the spectrum, a full green and violet ; in 
other words, the tints chosen were the middle and end col- 
ours of the spectrum. Maxwell, who made a series of beau- 
tiful researches on points connected with Young's theory, 
was led to adopt as the fundamental colours a red which in 
the spectrum lies between the fixed lines C and D, and is 
distant from C just one third of the distance between C 
and D. This is a scarlet-red with a tint of orange, and is 
represented by some varieties of vermilion. His green is 
situated between E and F, being distant from E by one 
quarter of the distance between E and P. This colour 
finds among pigments an approximate representative in 
emerald-green. Instead of adopting a full violet, Maxwell 
selected a violet-blue midway between the lines F and G, 
which is represented tolerably by artificial ultramarine-blue. 
By subjecting the results of experiments on the spectrum 
to calculation, it is possible to fix on the position of one of 
the fundamental colours, viz., the green. Thus Charles S. 
Pierce, using data given in Maxwell's paper, obtained for 
this colour a slightly different result from that just men- 


tioned.* According to his calculations, the fundamental 
green has a wave-length of 524 ten-millionths of a milli- 
metre, and is situated between the lines E and 5, being one 
third of the distance E b from E, whereas Maxwell's green 
is just beyond b. J. J. Mtlller, who conducted an impor- 
tant investigation on this subject by a quite different meth- 
od, arrived at a somewhat different result for the position 
of the green, and assigned to it a wave-length of 506-3 ten- 
millionths of a millimetre. This position in the spectrum 
is nearer the blue than the positions given by Maxwell and 
Pierce, and the tint is more of a bluish green. Again, von 
Bezold, basing his calculations on the experimental results 
of Helmholtz and J. J. MflUer, reached a conclusion not 
differing much from those of Maxwell or Pierce. He se- 
lects a green in the middle of the normal spectrum between 
E and b, but nearer b. /None of these results differ very 
greatly ; in fact, the differences can hardly be well indicated 
in a spectrum of the size of this page. All these greens 
may be imitated by using the pigment known as emerald- 
green, alone or mixed either with a small quantity of 
chrome-yellow or cobalt-blue. Hence all these green hues 
are of the most powerful or, as artists would say, over- 
powering character. 

The exact determination of the other two fundamental 
colours is a more difficult matter, so that even the advocates 
•of Young's theory have not entirely agreed among them- 
selves upon the exact colours, Maxwell taking ultramarine- 
blue, Helmholtz and J. J. Mtlller violet, as the third funda- 
mental. These fundamental colours are among the most 
saturated and intense of those furnished by the spectrum. 
Compared with them, the blue of the spectrum is a feeble 
tint, so that it has often been remarked by Rutherfurd that, 
in comparison with the other colours, it appears of a slaty 
hue. The greenish yellow is also feeble ; and, as is well 

* "Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1873." 


known, pure yellow is found in tlie spectrum in very small 
quantity and of no great intensity. The orange-yellow is 
also much weaker than the red, and the orange only be- 
comes strong as it approaches redness in hue. From this it 
very naturally follows that, if a normal spectrum is cast on 
a white wall in a room not carefully darkened, scarcely 
more than the three fundamental colours will be discerned, 
red, greefi, and blue-violet ; the other tints can with some 
difficulty be made out, but at first sight they strike the un- 
prejudiced observel- simply as the places where the three 
principal colours blend together. The representatives of 
the fundamentals among pigments are also those which 
surpass all others in strength and saturation. One of the 
fundamental colours, red, is used without much difficulty in 
painting and decoration ; the other two are more difficult 
to manage, particularly the green. The last colour, even 
when subdued, is troublesome to handle in painting, and 
many artists avoid 'it as far as possible, or admit it into 
their work only in the form of low olive-greens of various 
shades. When the tint approaches the fundamental green, 
and is at the same time bright, it becomes at once harsh 
and brilliant, and the eye is instantly arrested by it in a 
disagreeable manner. 


YouifG does not appear to be the first who proposed red, green, 
and violet as the three fundamental colours. As far back as 1792 
"Wilnsch was led to the same result by his experiments on mixtures 
of the coloured rays of the spectrum. The title of his -work is 
"Versnohe und Beobachtungen tlber die Farben des Lichtes" 
(Leipsic, 1792). An abstract of the contents is contained in the 
" Annales de Chimie," LXIV., 135. 

A. M. Mayer has recently called attention to the way in which 
Young was led to adopt red, green, and violet as the three funda- 
mental colours, and has shown that Young at first " selected red, 



yellow, and blue as the three simple colour-sensations ; second, that 
he subsequently modified his hypothesis, and adopted red, green, 
and violet as the three elementary colour-sensations, showing that 
up to the date of this change of opinion all of his ideas on the sub- 
ject were hypothetical, and not based on any observations of his 
own or others ; third, that this change of opinion as to the three 
elementary colours was made on the basis of a misconception by 
WoUaston of the nature of his celebrated observation of the dark 
lines in the solar spectrum, and also on the basis of an erroneous 
observation made by Young in repeating WoUaston's experiment ; 
fourth, that Young subsequently tested his hypothesis of colour- 
sensation, and found that it was in accord with facts reached by 
experiment, and that these experiments then vindicated his hy- 
pothesis and raised it to the dignity of a theory." ("American 
Journal of Science and Arts," April, 1875.) 

Fig. 43 (page 114) shows the intensities of the three primary sensa- 
tions, red, green, and violet, as estimated by Helmholtz. The intensi- 
ties were afterward measured by Maxwell, and found to differ slightly 
in the case of diflFerent eyes. In Fig. 44 the letters G D E F G de- 
note the fixed lines of the solar spectrum ; the curve ERE, the 

Fio. 44.— Curves showing the Intensity of the Fundamental Sensations in Different 
Parts of the Solar Spectrum. (Maxwell.) 

intensity of the sensation of red in different parts of the spectrum ; 
G G G is the curve for the green, and B B B that for the violet-blue 
sensation. Fig. 81 (page 104) shows the same curves as obtained by 
another observer. (" Philosophical Transactions " for 1860, vol. cl.) 



Those who watch a painter at work are astonished at 
the vast number and variety of tints which can be made by 
mixing in varying proportions a very few pigments : from 
red and yellow there is produced a great series of orange 
tints ; yellow and blue furnish a multitude of green hues ; 
blue and red, a series of purples. Thp results seem almost 
magical, and we justly admire the skill and knowledge 
which enable him in a few seconds accurately to match any 
colour which is within the compass of his palette. As we 
continue our observations we soon find that the matter is 
more complicated than it appeared at first sight, each pig- 
ment having a particular set of properties which it carries 
into its mixtures, and these properties being by no means 
fully indicated by its mere colour. Thus, some blue pig- 
ments furnish fine sets of greens, while others, as beautiful 
and intense, yield only dull olive-greeris ; some reds give 
glowing purples, whUe from others not less bright it is pos- 
sible to obtain only dull, slaty purples. Before touching 
on these complicated- cases it will be well to study this sub- 
ject under its simplest aspects, and to content ourselves for 
the present with making an examination of the effects 
which are produced by mixing light of different colours. 
This can not be brought about by mixing pigments, as was 
for a long time supposed. In some cases the mixture of 
pigments gives results more or less like those produced by 



the mixture of coloured light, but as a general thing they 
differ, and in some cases the difference is enormous. In 
the previous chapter, for instance, it was shown that while 
the mixture of yellow with blue pigments produced inva- 
riably a green hue of varying intensity, the mixture of blue 
with yellow light gave a more or less pure white, but under 
no circumstances anything approaching green. The mix- 
ture of two masses of coloured light can easily be effected 
in a simple manner so as to be exhibited readily to a large 
audience. Two magic lanterns are to be employed, as 
shown in Fig. 45, the usual slides being replaced by plates 

Fig. 46. — Two Magic Lanterns castiug Yellow and Blue Light on the same Screen, 
where it forms White. 

of coloured glass, as indicated. Each lantern then will fur- 
nish a large bright circle of coloured light, which can be 
projected on a white screen, the room in which the experi- 
ments are made being first darkened. In this way it will 
be found that violet-blue light when mixed with green 
light gives blue or greenish-blue light, according to the 
proportions of the two constituents ; green ■with red gives 
various hues of orange or whitish yellow, instead of a set 
of dull, indescribable shades of greenish, reddish, or brown- 
ish grey, . as is the case with pigments. These and many 


Other beautiful experiments on the mixture of coloured 
light can easily be made ; and even the effects produced by 
varying the intensity of either of the masses of coloured 
light can readily be studied by gradually diminishing the 
brightness of one of the coloured circles, the other remain- 
ing constant. 

To all these experiments it may be objected that we are 
not using coloured light of sufficient purity ; that our yel- 
low glass transmits, as was shown in Chapter VII., not only 
yellow but red, orange, and green light ; and that the other 
stained glasses are not much better off in this respect. 
Hence, to meet all such objections, physicists have been 
finally obliged to conduct their researches in this direction 
on the pure coloured rays of the spectrum. The difficulties 
encountered in the use of this method are much greater, 
but the results so obtained are far more precious. Very 
beautiful investigations of this character have been made 
by Helmholtz, Maxwell, and J. J. Muller. The general 
character of their results is something like this : By mixing 
two kinds of pure coloured light they obtained, as a general 
thing, light having a colour different from either of the 
original ingredients ; for example, red and yellowish green 
gave an orange hue which looked in all respects like the 
pure orange of the spectrum ; also, in this new orange it 
was impossible by the eye to detect the presence of either 
red or yellowish-green light. This was true of all mixtures ; 
in no case could the original ingredients be detected by the 
eye. In this respect the eye differs from the ear ; for by 
practice it is possible with the unaided ear to analyze up 
compound sounds into the elements which compose them, 
at least to some extent. It was also ascertained that the 
same colour could be produced in several different ways — 
that is, by combining together different pairs of spectral 
colours. Thus, violet with cyan-blue gave an ultramarine 
hue, but violet gave the same colour when mixed with 
bluish-green, or even with green ; in the last case the tint 




> Eed-oran/je. 


" Orange-yeUow. 




^ Green and 
' Blue-green. 

k Cyan-blue. 

was somewhat whitish. By mixing certain colours of the 
spectrum, it was found that one 
new colour or colour-sensation 
could be produced which origi- 
nally was not furnished by the ^ 
plain pure spectrum itself ; we re- c 
fer to purple, or rather to the 
whole class of purples, ranging 
from violet-purple to red-purple, j. 
These are produced by mixing the 
end colours of the spectrum, red 
and violet, in varying proportions. 
Furthermore, mixtures of certain 
colours of the spectrum gave rise ^ 
to white ; this was true, for ex- * 
ample, of fed and bluish-green, 
and of yellow and ultramarine- 
blue. The white in these two f 
cases, though so different in origin, 
had exactly the same appearance 
to the eye. Again, by mixing 
three or more spectral colours no 
new hues were produced, but sim- 
ply varieties of those which could 
be obtained from two colours. 

Such is the general character g 
of the results obtained by mixing 
together masses of pure coloured 
light ; we propose now to enter a 
little more into detail respecting 
this very interesting matter, and 
to examine the laws which control 
the production of the resultant 
hues. ^ 

It was ascertained by Mtlller, 
who worked under the direction 

V Blue and 
/ Blue-violet, 

> Violet. 

Fig. 46.— Prismatic Speotrum. 


of Helmholtz, that all the colours of the spectrum, Fig. 46, 
from red to yellowish-green, gave by mixture resultant 
hues which were always identical with some of the colours 
situated between red and yellowish-green, thus : 

Table I. 

Red and yellowish-green gave Orange or yellow.* 

Red and yellow gave Orange. 

Orange and yellowish-green gave Yellow. 

The effect of the mixture in these cases was to produce 
colours which were, to all appearance, as pure as the cor- 
responding colours of the spectrum itself. 

Furthermore, all colours of the spectrum from violet to 
bluish-green furnished mixtures corresponding to the col- 
ours contained between these limits, thus : 

Table II. 

Bluish-green and ultramarine-blue gave. . . Cyan-blue. 

Bluish-green and violet gave Cyan-blue or ultramarine-blue.* 

Violet and cyan-blue gave Ultramarine-blue. 

In these cases also the resulting tints could not be distin- 
guished from the corresponding spectral colours. The re- 
sults thus far are simple in character, and easily remem- 
bered by any one who recollects the arrangement of the 
colours of the spectrum. 

On the other hand, green, when mixed with any colour 
of the spectrum, gave a resultant colour, which was less 
saturated or intense, and appeared more whitish, than the 
corresponding spectral tint, thus : 

Table III. 

f Orange, \ 

Green and red gave } Yellow, C whitish. 

' Yellowish-green, ) 

* According to the proportions. 


Green and yellow gave Yellowish-green — whitish. 

Green and cyan-blue gave Bluish-green — whitish. 

( Ultramarine-blue, J 
Green and violet gave •{ Cyan-blue, > whitish. 

' Bluish-green, ) 
Yellowish-green and bluish-green gave. Green — very whitish. 

Mtlller made a careful determination of the position in the 
spectrum of the green which had the greatest effect in 
diminishing the saturation, and consequently was most in- 
fluential in generating pale or whitish tints. It was situ- 
ated between the fixed lines b and F, at one third the dis- 
tance between b and F, measured from b. This colour is a 
bluish-green, and can be imitated by mixing emerald-green 
with a small quantity of cobalt-blue. According to Mtlller, 
as already stated, this is the fundamental green : its wave- 
length is 506 '3 ten-millionths of a millimetre. 

Having considered the effects produced by mixing the 
colours of the spectrum situated on either side of the green, 
and also the effects produced by green itself in mixture, it 
remains to examine the mixtures of the colours located 
right and left of green, thus : 

Table IV. 

Bed and ultramarine-blue gave. . . Violet — slightly whitish. 

Red and cyan-blue gave Ultramarine or violet — whitish. 

Orange and violet gave Red — whitish. 

Red and violet gave Purple — whitish. 

Orange and ultramarine gave. . . . Purple — whitish. 

These results may at first sight not seem as simple and ob- 
vious as those mentioned above, but, when the arrangement 
of the colour-diagram* has been explained, it will be seen 
that they are strictly analogous to the cases before given. 

It may have been noticed by the reader that the series 
of pairs given in the tables thus far do not entirely exhaust 

* See Chapter XIV. 


all possible combinations of the spectral colours. In tbe 
cases which remain, however, the effect of mixture is not 
the production of coloured but of white light, thus : 

Table V. 

Red and bluish-green* gave White. 

Orange and cyan-blue gave White. 

Yellow and ultramarine gave White. 

Greenish-yellow and violet gave White. 

Hence these are called complementary colours, and, on ac- 
count of their importance, a separate chapter will be devoted 
to them. Green finds no simple complementary colour in 
the spectrum ; it requires a mixture of red and violet, or 
the colour called purple. 

These experiments, as will be easily understood, have 
furnished us with a great deal of valuable information, 
which could not have been derived by studying the mix- 
tures of pigments on the painter's palette. They supply us 
with material which can be used in unraveling many col- 
our-problems, presented by nature or art, which otherwise 
would be quite beyond our grasp. The experiments them- 
selves unfortunately are quite difficult, and for then- proper 
execution require knowledge and skill as well as much pa- 
tience. There is, however, another method of mixing coloured 
light to which no such objections apply, for it is simple and 
quite within the reach of all who are interested in this sub- 
ject. We refer to the method of rotating disks which has 
already once or twice been mentioned, f If a disk of card- 
board be painted, as indicated in Pig. 47, with vermilion 
and a bluish-green pigment, and then set in rapid rotation, 
these colours will be mixed (in the eye of the observer), 
and the whole disk will assume a new and uniform tint, 
which will be that due to a mixture of the coloured light 
sent out from the two halves of the disk (Fig. 48). When 

■•' Or rather green-blue. \ See Chapter IX. 


we analyze this experiment, we find that what actually does 
take place is this : At any one particular instant a certain 
portion of the retina of the eye will be affected with red 
light ; the disk then turns and presents to the same portion 
of the retina bluish-green light ; then follows red, then 
bluish-green, etc. Hence the retina is really acted on by 
alternate presentations of the two masses of coloured light, 
the intervals between these substitutions being something 
less than one fiftieth of a second. Now, it so happens that 
these alternate presentations have the same effect on the 
eye as simultaneous presentations. This is not the least 
valuable result of the spectral experiments above described. 

Fio. 47.— Disk pfitated with Ver- Fia. 48.— Appearance presented 

mlllon and Blue-green. by Eod and Blue-green Disk 

when in Kapid Botation. 

for it enables us by an easy method to pursue our colour- 
investigations without having direct recourse to the spec- 
trum. There is one respect in which the mixture by rotat- 
ing disks actually does differ from that where the presenta- 
tion is simultaneous. If we simultaneously present to the 
eye two masses of coloured light, it is plain that the lumi- 
nosity of the mixture will be equal to the sum of the lumi- 
nosities of the two components (or at least must approximate 
to it) ; thus, if the luminosity of our red light be 25, and 
that of our greenish-blue 30, the luminosity of the tint of 
mixture will be 55. If, however, these two masses of light 
act on the eye alternately, as. is the case with rotating 



disks, the luminosity of the mixture-tint will be not the 

sum but the mean of the separate luminosities ; that is, 271-.* 

This method of mixing colours was mentioned in the 

second century, in the "Optics" of Ptolemy. f It was 

Fig. 49. — One of Maxwell's Bisks. 

rediscovered by Musschenbroek in 1762, and finally greatly 
improved by Maxwell. The last-named physicist modified 
the disks, so that it became possible easily to mix the col- 
ours in any desired proportion. This important improve- 

FiGs. 50 and 61. -Two Views of a Fair of Maxwell's Disks in Combination. 

ment is effected simply by cutting a slit through the disk 
from the centre to the circumference, as indicated in Fig. 
49. The slit enables the experimenter to combine two or 
even more disks on the same axis, and to adjust them so 

* Compare the results obtained by the author and giyen in Chapter HI. 
f " Bibliographie Aiialytique," by J. Plateau (ISYT). 


that they present their respective surfaces in any desired 
proportion. (See Figs. 50 and 51.) The relative propor- 
tions of the two colours can then be obtained, as was done 
by Maxwell, by placing a graduated circle around the 
disks. The author finds it better to apply a graduated cir- 
cle of pasteboard to the face of the disk, this circle being 
made a little smaller than the disk itself ; the centring is 
insured by its contact with the axis on which the disk is 
fastened. (See Fig. 52.) Maxwell divided his circle into 

Fig. 52.— Mode of measuring the Colours on the Disks. 

100 instead of 360 parts ; this is convenient, and tenths of 
a division can readily be estimated by the eye. There is 
another very important feature connected with Maxwell's 
disks : they can easily be arranged so as to furnish colour- 
equations, which are of great use in chromatic studies. 
For example, returning to our compound disk of red and 
bluish-green, and remembering that these colours are com- 
plementary, it is evident that, if we give to the red and 
bluish-green surfaces the proper proportions, we can from 
them produce white, or, what is the same thing, a pure 
grey. But a pure grey can also be produced by rotating a 
white and black disk similarly arranged. Hence, in an ex- 
periment of this kind, we place on the axis, first, the disks 
of vermilion, and bluish -green, and then on the same axis 
smaller disks of black and white pasteboard, cut in a simi- 
lar manner with radial slits. By repeated trials we can 


arrange tlie coloured disks so that they furnish a grey as 
neutral and pure as that due to the black and white disks ; 
and these last can be arranged so that the grey furnished 
by them is as luminous as that given by the other two. In 
an experiment of this kind it was found that to produce a 
pure grey it was necessary to take 36 parts of vermUion 
and 64 parts of bluish-green. This grey was in all respects 
exactly matched by 21 "3 parts of white and 78*7 parts of 
black. The disk when stationary presented the appearance 
indicated in Fig. 58 ; when in rotation, that of a pure, uni- 

FiG. 53. — Large Disk of Red and Blue-green arranged for the Frodaction of a Pure 
Grey, Small Disk of Black and White furnishes the same Grey. 

form grey. All this can be put in the form of an equation 
by writing 86 red + 64 blue-green = 21-3 white -f 78-7 black. 
We have here expressed the proportions in which it is 
•necessary to take these particular colours for the produc- 
tion of a grey ; the luminosity of this grey is also expressed 
in terms of black and white paper. According to our equa- 
tion, if we set the luminosity of white paper equal to 100 
and that of black paper equal to nothing, then the lumi- 
nosity of the grey will be equal to 21-3 per cent, of that of 
white paper. It is not strictly true that the luminosity of 
black paper is equal to nothing, or that it reflects no light 
at all. Some careful experiments were made by the author 
on this point, and the following result reached : If black 
pasteboard is prepared by painting its surface with lamp- 


black in powder to which just enough spirit varnish has 
been added to cause it to adhere closely, but not to shine, 
then a uniform surface will be obtained, which reflects a 
small but definite amount of the light falling on it. If, as 
before, we set the luminosity of white pasteboard as 100, 
then that of this kind of black paper will be 5'2 ; or, in 
other words, it reflects about five per cent, as much light 
as white, pasteboard. This knowledge enables us to correct 
the equation just given ; instead of 21'3 white, we should 
write 25 •4. 

In the above example we have taken the case of two 
complementary colours, and have obtained a measure for 
the white or grey light which they furnish by mixture ; 

Fio. S4.— Vermilioo and Emerald.ffraen Disks arranged to produce a Yellow by Rota- 
tion. This yellow is imitated by small chrome-yellow, black, and white disks, as 
arranged in the figure. 

when the resultant tint is not grey, but some decided col- 
our, we can in a similar way assign to it a numerical value. 
Take the case of vermilion and emerald-green : Disks 
painted with these colours can be made to furnish a whitish 
yellow, as demanded by Young's theory, and we can ex- 
press the value of this yellow in terras of chrome-yellow ; 
that is, by darkening chrome-yellow and rendering it pale. 
This we accomplish by combining chrome-yellow mth a 
black and a white disk. As the result of an experiment 
of this kind, the author obtained the equation : Verm. 
51 -1- em. -green 49 = ch.-yel. 20 -I- white 8 + black 72. 


The compound disk properly arranged is seen in Fig. 54. 
The reader may be somewhat surprised to notice that it 
was necessary to dull the chrome-yellow so greatly before 
making it similar in colour to the yellow produced by mix- 
ing the green and red light ; it must, however, be remem- 
bered that chrome-yellow does not quite belong to the same 
set of colours of which vermilion and emerald-green are 
members ; that is to say, if we represented the red space of 
a normal spectrum with vermilion, and the green space 
with emerald-green, then chrome-yellow would be too 
bright or luminous for the yellow space, and we should 
have to substitute for it a less brilliant yellow pigment. 

In -the same manner, with the aid of properly painted 
disks, we can make a series of experiments on the mixture 
of other colours, and satisfy ourselves of the correctness of 
the results already given in this chapter. For instance, by 
combining a yellow with a vermilion disk in various pro- 
portions, we obtain a series of orange or orange-yellow hues, 
which are as saturated in appearance as the original con- 
stituents. Red lead with a yellowish-green disk gave a 
fair yellow, and the same yellowish-green disk when com- 
bined with vermilion furnished a fine orange or yellow, 
according to the proportions. These corresp5nd to the re- 
sults .given in Table I. In the same way those contained 
in the other tables can be verified. Naturally, some care 
must be exercised in the selection of the pigments with 
which the disks are painted ; thus, the author finds that the 
pure red of the spectrum can be imitated by vermilion 
washed over with carmine. Vermilion itself corresponds 
to the red space of the spectrum about half way between 
C and D ; red lead answers for a red-orange situated nearer 
still to D, etc. The parts of the spectrum which these and 
other pigments represent are indicated in Chapter HI, to 
which the reader is referred for further information. 

In preparing a set of disks for accurate experiments, it 
will be necessary of course to compare their colours care- 



fully with those regions of the spectrum which they are 
intended to represent. This can be done with the aid of 
the spectroscope in the method indicated in Chapter III. 
A set of disks with carefully determined colours is quite 
valuable, not only for experiments of this kind, but also to 
enable us to produce a vast variety of tints at will, which 
can be recorded and afterward accurately reproduced when 

"We pass on now to the description of a beautiful and 
simple piece of apparatus contrived by Dove, for mixing 
the coloured light furnished by stained glass, and called by 
him a dichrooscope. This consists of a box 81 millimetres 
long, 75 high, and 70 broad ; three sides are open, but can 
be closed by opaque slides or by plates of coloured glass. 
(See Fig. 55, which shows the box in perspective.) Fig. 56 

Tis. 6S.— The Box of Dove's DiohroBsoope. 
The plates of coloured glass are removed 
and the three sides left open. The six 
plates of window-glass are shown. 

Fig. 56.— The Dichrooscope shown 
in section. 

is a vertical section,' in which G R and R D are plates of 
coloured glass ; G P is an opaque slide made of blackened 
cardboard, in which a square aperture has been cut ; P R 
represents a set of six glass plates made from window- 
glass of the best quality ; these are of course colourless. 
At S S, Fig. 57, is a silvered mirror, and at N a Nicol's 
prism. The action of the apparatus is as follows : Let us 
suppose that G R is a plate of green glass, and R D one of 
red ; then the light from the sky, striking on the mirror 
SS, is reflected through RD and the. plates PR, and 



finaUy reaches the eye ; it will of course be coloured red. 
But light from the sky also falls on the plate of green glass, 
G R, penetrates it, is reflected from the glass plates at P R, 
and also reaches the eye. The eye, then, wiU be simulta- 
neously acted on by red and green light ; and, if the Nio- 
ol's prism at N be removed, this mixture will be seen, but 
we shall have no means of regulating the proportions of the 
red and green light. But, by restoring the Nicol's prism 
to its place, and rotating it, it is possible to mix the red and 
green light in any desii-ed proportion.* "When the appa- 

FiG. 5T. — The Dichrooscope as arranged for use. 

ratus is provided with red and green glass as above indi- 
cated, a dull yellow wUl sometimes be given without the 
use of the Nicol's prism ; with its aid, this can always be 
accomplished ; the yellow will pass into greenish-yellow or 
orange, according as the proportions of the two constitu- 
ents are varied. It is best to employ glasses the tint of 
which is not too dark, as we do not readily recognize dark 
yellow as such. The author easily obtained pieces of green 

* Many beautiful experiments with polarized light can be made with 
this little apparatus ; for an account of them the reader is referred to Pog- 
gendorflf's " Annalen," ex., p. 265, or to the " American Journal of Science," 
Tol. xxxi., January, 1861. 


and purple glass ■which gave pure white ; yellow and blue 
glass also did the same. If the hue of the yellow glass was 
too deep, the white was always tinged pinkish. Red and 
yellow gave orange ; green and yellow, yellowish-green ; 
red and blue, purple. All these results are quite in accord- 
ance with those obtained by mixing the coloured light of 
the spectrum. 

In the previous chapter we have described a method 
which was contrived long ago by Lambert for mixing the 
coloured light from painted surfaces (see Fig. 39, page 110). 
The light from the blue paper is transmitted directly to the 
eye, and that from the yellow paper reaches the eye after re- 
flection ; their action is of course simultaneous. By moving 
the two pieces of paper nearer together or farther apart, it 
is possible to vary their apparent brightness, and thus to 
regulate the proportion of blue and yellow light which 
reaches the eye ; the yellow will predominate when the 
papers are near together, the blue as they are moved fur- 
ther apart. Chrome-yellow (the pale variety) and ultra- 
marine-blue, when combined in this apparatus, give an 
excellent white, and emerald-green and vermilion give a 
yellowish or orange tint, according to the arrangement. It 
is difficult to obtain a good representative of violet among 
the pigments in use by artists ; the author finds that some 
samples of the aniline colour known as " Hoffmann's violet 
B B " answer better than any of the ordinary pigments. 
If a deep tint of its alcoholic solution be spread over paper, 
and combined in the instrument with emerald-green, a blue, 
a greenish-blue, or a violet-blue can readily be produced. 
It is evident that a multitude of experiments of this char- 
acter can be made, the number of colours united at one 
time being limited to two. The results of course agree 
with Young's theory. 

Another method of mixing coloured light seems to have 
been first definitely contrived by Mile in 1839, though it 
had been in practical use by artists a long time previously. 


We refer to the custom of placing a quantity of small dots 
of two colours very near each other, and allowing them to 
be blended by the eye placed at the proper distance. Mile 
traced fine lines of colour parallel to each other, the tints 
being alternated. The results obtained in this way are true 
mixtures of coloured light, and correspond to those above 
given. For instance, lines of cobalt-blue and chrome-yellow 
give a white or yellowish-white, but no trace of green ; 
emerald-green and vermilion furnish when treated iu this 
way a dull yellow ; ultramarine and vermilion, a rich red-pur- 
ple, etc. This method is almost the only practical one at the ■. 
disposal of the artist whereby he can actually mix, not pig- 
ments, but masses of coloured light. In this connection we 
are reminded of an interesting opinion of Ruskin which has 
some bearing on our subject. The author of " Modem 
Painters," in his most admirable " Elements of Drawing," 
says : " Breaking one colour in small points through or 
over another is the most important of all processes in good 
modern oil and water-colour painting. ... In distant ef- 
fects of a rich subject, wood or rippled water or broken 
clouds, much may be done by touches or crumbling dashes 
of rather dry colour, with other colours afterward put cun- 
ningly into the interstices. . . . And note, in filling up 
minute interstices of this kind, that, if you want the colour 
you fill them with to show brightly, it is better to put a 
rather positive point of it, with a little white left beside or 
round it, in the interstice, than to put a pale tint of the col- 
our over the whole interstice. Yellow or orange will hardly 
show, if pale, in small spaces ; but they show brightly in 
fine touches, however small, with white beside them." 

This last method of mixing coloured light is one which 
often occurs in nature ; the tints of distant objects in a 
landscape are often blended in this way, and produce soft 
hues which were not originally present. Even near objects, 
if numerous and of small dimension, act in the same man- 
ner. Thus the colours of the scant herbage on a hillside 


often mingle themselves in tMs way with the greenish-grey 
tints of the mosses and the brown hues of the dried leaves ; 
the reddish- or purplish-brown of the stems of small bushes 
unites at a little distance with their shaded green foliage ; 
and in numberless other instances, such as the upper and 
lower portions of mosses, sunlit and shaded grass-stalks, and 
the variegated patches of colour on rocks and trunks of 
trees, the same principle can be traced. 

There is another mode of mingling coloured light, which 
is not much used by physicists, though it is of constant oc- 
currence in nature. We refer to the case where two masses 
of coloured light fall simultaneously on the same object. 
Sunsets furnish the grandest examples of these effects, the 
objects in a landscape being at the same time illuminated 
by the blue sky and the orange or red rays of the sinking 
sun. Minor cases happen constantly ; among them the 
commonest is where a coloured object reflects light of its 
own tint on neighboring objects, thus modifying their hues 
and being in turn modified by them. The white or grey 
walls of a room are often very wonderfully tinted by col- 
oured light which is cast on them in nebulous patches by 
the carpet, window-curtains, or other coloured objects that 
happen to be present. In all cases where the surface re- 
ceiving the manifold illumination is white or grey, or but 
slightly coloured, the laws for the mixture of coloured 
light which have been explained above hold good ; when, 
however, this surface has a distinct colour of its own, the 
phenomena are modified in a manner which will presently 
be noticed. 

We pass on now to compare the results which are ob- 
tained by mixing coloured lights with those which are 
given by the mixture of coloured pigments. It was for a 
long time supposed that these were identical, and that ex- 
periments on mixtures of coloured light could be made 
with the aid of the painter's palette. Lambert appears to 
have been the first to point out the fact that the results in 


the two oases are not always identical. Thus the celebrated 
experiment of combining blue with yellow light, and ob- 
taining not green but white, was first made by him with the 
apparatus shown in Fig. 39, page 110. The same fact was 
afterward independently discovered by Plateau, and finally 
by Helmholtz, who, using it as a starting-point, made an ex- 
amination of the whole subject. When we study this matter 
with some attention, we find that in mixing pigments two 
different effects are produced. Suppose we mix chrome- 
yellow and ultramarine-blue, both in dry powder. If we 
rub this mixture on paper, we shall produce a uniform and 
rather dull green. An examination even with a moderately 
powerful microscope will fail to reveal the separate parti- 
cles of the two pigments. Yet we know that there must 
be a superficial layer, made up of a mosaic work of blue 
and yellow particles placed side by side. These two sets of 
particles send light of their own colour to the eye, which 
there undergoes a true mixture, and gives as the resultant 
hue a yellowish-grey.- Thus far the result entirely corre- 
sponds with that produced by mixing two niasses of col- 
oured light. The second and more important effect is 
brought about by light which penetrates two or more lay- 
ers of particles. Here the light undergoes absorption in 
the manner explained in Chapter VII. : the yellow particles 
absorb the blue and violet ; the blue particles, the red, 
orange, and yellow rays. The green light is absorbed also 
by both sets of particles, but not nearly so much as the 
other rays. From all this it follows that chrome-yellow 
and ultramarine-blue jointly absorb all the colours which 
are present in white light, except green ; hence green light, 
as the result, is reflected back from the surface, and reaches 
the eye of the observer. This green light is finally mingled 
with the yellowish-grey light before mentioned. When dry 
pigments are employed, both of the effects just described 
are always present. If the pigments are used as water- 
colours, the light from the surface is diminished, and with 


it the first of these effects ; and a still further diminution 
of it takes place if the pigments are ground up in oil. 
From all this it is evident that by mingling two pigments 
we obtain the resultant effect of two acts of absorption due 
to the two pigments : white light is twice subjected to the 
process of subtraction, and what remains over is the col- 
oured light which finally emerges from the painted surface. 
On the other hand, the process of mixing coloured light is 
essentially one of addition ; and, this being so, we find it 
quite natural that the results given by these two methods 
should never be identical, and often should differ widely. 
From this it follows that painters can not in many cases 
directly apply knowledge acquired from the palette to the 
interpretation of chromatic effects produced by nature, for 
these latter often depend to a considerable extent on the 

Fig. 58.— Two Apertures in Black Cardboard covered with Eea and Green Glass 
(natural size.) 

mixing of masses of differently coloured light. This fact is 
now admitted in a general way by intelligent artists, but 
probably few who have not made experiments in this direc- 
tion fully realize how wide are the discrepancies which exist 
between the results given by the two different modes of 
mixture. A few years ago Dove described a method of 
studying this subject with the aid of stained glass ; and, as 
it would be difficult to devise a simpler or more striking 
mode of making such experiments, we will give his process 
in full. 



In a blackened piece of cardboard two apertures are 
cut, about a third of an inch broad, as indicated in Fig. 58. 
Over these apertures are fastened pieces of stained glass — 
for instance, red and green ; light from a white cloud is 
then made to traverse the glasses. At P, Pig. 59, is an 


Fig. 59.— Mode of using DoTe'8 Apparatus. E G is cart 

at P is the prism of cale spar. 

red and greeB glass ; 

achromatic prism of calc spar, which doubles each of the 
little patches of coloured light, so that the observer on 
looking through the; prism actually sees two red images of 

Fis. 60.— The Appearance presented when Eed and Green Light are mixed by Bove's 


exactly equal brightness, and also two similar green images. 
Now, by revolving the calc-spar prism the experimenter 
can cause one of the red images to overlap one of the 
green, and thus it is possible to mingle the red and green 



light from the coloured glasses. In one experiment made 
by the present writer the colour of this miztui-e was orange 
(see Fig. 60). Upon removing the glasses from the instru- 
ment, placing them one over the other and allowing white 
light to pass through them, the effect due to the double 
absorption manifested itself ; but now the colour of the 
transmitted light was not orange, or even brown, but dark 
green. If these two glasses had been ground to powder, 
mixed with oil, and then the mixture painted on canvas, it 
would have exhibited not an orange but a dark-green hue. 
We give below the results of a set of experiments which 
were recently made by the writer, and which illustrate the 
differences to be encountered in the two modes of proceed- 
ing : . 

Resdlts given bt Dove's Apparatus. 

Ooloura of Glass. 

Result obtained by mixture 
of Light. 

Result obtained by A.b- 

Red and green 

Pale yellow. 

Dark green. 

*Red and green 


Yellow and blue 


Fine green. 

*Yellow and blue 


Fine olive-green. 


Deep red. 

Yellow and dark purple . . . 

Deep orange. 

*Yellow and dark purple. . 

Pale orange. 

Dark brown. 

Purple and green 


Dark green. 

Yellow and red 

Yellow, slightly orange. 

Deep orange-red. 

*Yellow and red 


Yellow and bluish-green. . . 



*Yellow and blue-green.. . . 


Rich yellowish-green. 

**Yellow and blue-green . . 

Pale greenish-yellow. 


Purple and blue-green. . . . 

Pale blue-green. 

Dark violet. 

Purple-violet and green . . . 

Pale violet-blue. 


These are not experiments selected so as to show wide dif- 
* Sample more deeply tinted. 


ferences ; they comprise the entire set that was made on 
the occasion referred to, and are simply transcribed from 
the author's note-book. Yet it will be seen that in not a 
single case do the two methods furnish the same result ; 
and as a general thing they differ so entirely that it would 
be quite impossible even to predict the nature of one of the 
sets of tints from a knowledge of the other. These experi- 
ments, then, exhibit the wide difference between the effects 
produced by mixture of light and the absorption of light ; 
but, as has already been remarked, when pigments are 
mixed on the palette, the resultant hue depends partly on 
the process of true mixture and partly on that of absorp- 
tion, the latter of course predominating. Hence the results 
in the table, though instructive, are not necessarily strictly 
applicable to the painter's palette, which is best studied by 
another method. 

Fig. 61.— Disk for showing the Difference bebveen mixiiig Coloured Light and Coloured 
Pigments. The outer disk is painted with the pure pigments, the small disk with a 
mixture of the same pigments. 

For an examination of this matter the author adopted 
the following mode of proceeding : Two tolerably deep 
washes of water-colour pigments were prepared — for in- 
stance, vermilion and ultramarine-blue — with which two of 
Maxwell's disks were separately painted. Afterward an 
equal number of drops of the same washes were mingled 
on the palette, and a third and smaller disk painted with this 
mixture. The disks were placed on a rotation apparatus, 


arranged as in Fig. 61, the vermilion and ultramarine cover- 
ing each one half of the larger disk ; the smaller one, ex- 
hibiting the result furnished by the palette, being placed in 
the centre. When the compound disk was rotated, the col- 
ours of its outer portion underwent true mixture, and it was 
easy to compare the resultant tint with that furnished by 
the palette. In the experiment referred to the result was 
as follows : The larger disk became tinted red-purple, 
alongside of which the smaller disk seemed grey, so duU 
and inferior was its colour. The real colour of the smaller 
disk was a dull violet-purple. It will be noticed, then, that 
not only was the colour much darker and less saturated, but 
it had been moved from a red-purple to a violet-purple. 
Next, in order to ascertain how^much the pigments had 
been darkened by mixture on tlhe palette and otherwise 
changed, a black disk was combined with the vermilion and 
ultramarine disks, and various amounts of black introduced 
into the red-purple mixture by rapid rotation. It was found 
impossible in this way to bring the colour of the larger disk 
to equality with that of the smaller one, it remaining always 
too saturated in hue. Some white was then added to the 
large disk, and equalization finally effected. It was then 
found that twenty-one parts of vermilion, twenty parts of 
ultramarine, with fifty-one parts black and nine parts white, 
made a tint by rotation which was identical with that given 
by mixing up the vermilion and ultramarine on the palette. 
The large amount of black which it was necessary to add 
strikingly illustrates the general proposition that every 
mixture of pigments on the painter's palette is a stride 
toward blackness. We give now the results of the other 
experiments : 



Table showing the Effects of mixing Pigments by Rotation and on 
THE Palette. 


Violet (" Tiolet-carmine ") ( 

Yellow-green (Hooker's green) j' 

Violet ("violet-carmine") [ 

Yellow (gamboge) j 

Violet (''violet-carmine") ) 

Green (Prussian-blue and gamboge). . . J 

Violet (" violet-carmine") ) 

Prussian-blue j 

Violet ("violet-carmine") ( 

Carmine j' 



Carmine i 

Hooker's green j 

Carmine | 

Green f 

By Rotation. 


Pale yellowish- 



Pale greenish- 

ange (flesh-tint). 

Pale reddish 

On the Palette. 





Dull red-purple. 

Full blue-green. 



It will be noticed that in only one case do the results of the 
two methods coincide ; in all the others the tints from the 
palette are not only much darkef, but also different. Col- 
our-equations were then obtained for the eight cases above 
given in exactly the manner indicated for vermiUon and 
ultramarine-blue ; and as they present the facts in an exact 
manner, showing how much black it was necessary to intro- 
duce, and how far the proportions of the two component 
colours had to be varied, they are given below : 

Mixture on Palette. 

60 violet + 60 Hooker's green. . 

Mixture by Rotation. 
21 violet -I- 22-5 Hooker's green -f 4 
vermilion + 62-5 black. 

60 violet + 60 gamboge =64 violet + 20 gamboge + 26 black. 

60 violet -f 50 green =60 violet -|- 18 green + 32 black. 

60 violet + 50 Prussian-blue. . . = 47 violet + 49 Prussian-blue + 4 black. 


60 violet + 50 carmine =\^^ '■'°'^' + ^^ "^""^^ + ^ ^l*™""^- 

( rine + 19 black. 

50 gamboge + 50 Prussian-blue. = \ ^^ r"""" gamboge) + 42 Prussiar- 

/ blue + 41 green + 4 black. 

»f, ■,- . »„ ,^ . * 21 vermilion + 20 ultramarine + 51 

50 vermilion + 50 ultramarme. . = ^ ' » uc -r uj. 

( black + 9 white. 

„„ XT , , _. . I 23'5 yellow-green (Hooker's green) + 8 

60 Hooker's green + 50 carmine = < j _ b \ s =■;"; -r 

l carmine + 52 vermilion + 16 black. 
50 carmine + 50 green =50 carmine + 24 green + 26 black. 

It will be noticed that the amount of black which it was 
necessary to introduce, in order to darken the true mixture 
of the colours so as to match the mixture of the pigments, 
was a very variable quantity, ranging from four to fifty-two 
per cent. It is for this reason that artists are so careful in 
their selection of pigments for the production of definite 
tones, particularly when they are to be luminous in quality. 
In four of these experiments it was found impossible to 
bring about equality without adding to the two original 
constituents a third colour, and in one case white had to be 
added ; so that, in more than half the cases examined, the 
original colours were found incapable of reproducing by a 
true process of mixture the tint obtained on the palette 
without the aid of a foreign element. These experiments 
serve, then, to show that the results furnished by the pa- 
lette can not be relied on to guide us in the interpretation 
or study of effects in nature depending on the mixture of 
coloured light. 

We propose now to consider the results which are pro- 
duced when a coloured surface is exposed to a coloured 
illumination and at the same time to white light. Effects 
of this kind are very common in nature, and are frequently 
purposely selected by artists as themes ; in a minor degree 
they are always present to some extent, even when we seek 
to avoid them. With the knowledge which we have now 
gained, it is possible for us to recognize the fact that in 
such cases the resultant tint of the surface will depend on 



three circumstances : first, on the colour which it assumes 
owing to the presence of the white light — that is to say, 
which it has owing to its natural or, as artists call it, " local 
colour " ; secondly, on the colour communicated to it by 
that portion of the coloured light which is reflected unal- 
tered from its surface ; and to these there must be added, 
thirdly, the effects produced by the coloured light which 
penetrates below the surface, and is reflected after under- 
going a certain amount of absorption. It is quite easy to 
make satisfactory experiments on this matter with the aid 

Fio. 62.— White light from a window ftlls on stained glass at 6, and is then concentrated 
by the lens on a sheet of white or coloured paper at P. 

of a simple arrangement contrived by the author. At a 
distance of some eight or ten feet from a window, a lens, 
with a focal length of about five inches, is placed on a 
table, in such a way as to concentrate the white light from 
the window. In front of the lens a plate of coloured glass 
is held, and the result is that we obtain a bright beam of 
coloured light, which can be thrown on any coloured sur- 
face, such, for example, as painted paper (see Fig. 62). If 


the walls of the room are white, the paper will at the same 
time be exposed to a white illumination ; and, by turning it 
or removing it farther from the lens, the proportions of this 
double illumination can be varied at wiU. We will describe 
two experiments that were made with this arrangement : 
Yellow light was obtained by using a plate of glass which 
transmitted light having to the eye a pure yellow hue, 
without any tendency to orange-yellow or greenish-yellow. 
In this beam of light a piece of paper, painted with a very 
intense, deep hue of artificial ultramarine, was held. The 
portion illuminated by the yellow light appeared almost 
quite white, showing that a true mixture of the colours had 
taken place. It is well known that it is difficult to decide 
about the actual colour of a spot when it is surrounded by 
a coloured field ; hence, in order to avoid deception by con- 
trast, it is well in these experiments to observe the spot_ 
which has received the double illumination through an 
aperture cut in black paper, which is to be held in such a 
way as to permit a view only of this spot. This precaution 
was taken in the present case, and also in all the experi- 
ments that are given below. The ultramarine paper was 
then removed, and its place supplied by some which had 
been painted with Prussian-blue. The spot now appeared 
of a bright green colour, which proved that an action had 
taken place similar to that produced by mixing pigments 
on the palette. The explanation is as follows : The yellow 
glass transmits yellow, green, orange, and red light ; and, 
as was explained in the previous chapter, these lights taken 
together make a light which appears to us yellow. That 
portion of this compound yellow light which penetrates the 
Prussian-blue undergoes a process of absorption ; the green 
constituent, however, is not absorbed, and consequently is 
reflected rather abundantly from the paper. But some of 
the yellow light is reflected unaltered from the immediate 
surface of the paper ; this mixes with the blue light (due to 
the white illumination), and makes white ; so that what we 


finally have is green mixed witli more or less white. In 
the experiment where the ultramarine paper was used, no 
doubt some absorption took place, but it was not sufficient 
to modify the result materially ; the blue and yellow light 
simply united, and formed white light. Below are given, 
in the form of tables, a large series of experiments made 
recently by the author ; and an examination of them will 
show that for the most part the resultant tint depends 
rather on a true mixture of coloured lights, and that absorp- 
tion acts only as a minor agent in modifying the results : 

Table I. 

Yellow Light falliDg on 
Paper painted with 

Carmine gave Red-orange. 

Vermilion gave Bright orange-red. 

Orange * gave Bright orange-yellow. 

Chrome-yellow gave Bright yellow. 

Gamboge gave Bright yellow. 

Yellowish-green f gave Yellow. 

Green J gave Bright yellow-green. 

Blue-green § gave Yellow-green (whitish). 

Cyan-blue | gave _ Yellow-green. 

Prussian blue gave Bright green. 

Ultramarine-blue gave White. 

Violet ^ gave Pale reddish tint. 

Purple- violet ** gave Orange (whitish). 

Purpleff gave Orange. 

Black a gave Yellow. 

* Mixture of red lead and Indian- yellow. 

f Mixture of gamboge and Prussian-blue. 

ij: Mixture of emerald-green with a little chrome-yellow. 

§ Mixture of emerald-green with a little cobalt-blue. 

II Mixture of cobalt-blue and emerald-green. 

^ Hoffmann's violet B. B. 

** Hoffmann's violet B. B. and carmine. 

■)-f Hoffmann's violet B. B. and carmine. 

J:j: Lampblack. 


Table II. 
Red Light falling on 
Paper painted with 

Carmine gave Red. 

Vermilion gave Bright red. 

Orange gave Red-orange and scarlet. 

Chrome-yellow gave Orange. 

Gamboge gave Orange. 

Yellowish-green gave Yellow and orange. 

Green gave Yellow -and orange (whitish). 

Blue-green gave Nearly white. 

Cyan-blue gave Grey. 

Prussian-blue gave Red-purple or blue-v/olel. 

Ultramarine-blue gave Red-purple or blue-violet. 

Violet gave Red-purple. 

Purple-violel gave Red-purple. 

Purple gave Purple-red or red. 

Black gave Dark red. 

Table III. 

Green Light falling on 
Paper painted with 

Carmine gave Dull yellow. 

Vermilion gave Dull yellow or greenish yellow. 

Orange gave Yellow and greenish-yellow. 

Chrome-yellow gave . . . . Yellowish-green. 

Gamboge gave Yellowish-green. 

Yellowish-green gave . . . Yellowish-green. 

Green gave Bright green. 

Blue-green gave Green. 

Cyan-blue gave Blue-green. 

Prussian-blue gave Blue-green, cyan-blue. 

Ultramarine-blue gave . . Cyan-blue, blue. 

Violet gave Cyan-blue, blue, violet-blue (all whitish). 

Purple-violet gave Pale blue-green, pale blue. 

Purple gave Greenish-grey, grey, reddish-grey. 

Black gave Dark green. 

Table IV. 

Blue Light falling on 
Paper painted with 

Carmine gives Purple. 

Vermilion gives Red-purple. 

Orange gives Whitish-purple. 


Chrome-yeUow gives Yetlowish-grey, greenish-grey. 

Gamboge gives Yellowish-grey, greenish-grey. 

Yellowish-green gives Blue-grey. 

Green gives Blue-green, cyan-blue. 

Blue-green gives Cyan-blue, blue. 

•Cyan-blue gives Blue. 

Prussian-blue gives Blue. 

Dltramarine-blue gives Blue. 

Violet gives Ultramarine, violet-blue. 

Purple-violet gives Blue-violet. 

Purple gives Violet-blue, purple- violet. 

Black gives Dark blue. 

These experiments, taken as a whole, show that, in calcu- 
lating for the eifects produced by illuminating coloured 
surfaces by coloured light, we must be guided mainly by 
the laws which govern mixtures of coloured lights, rather 
than by those which can be deduced from experience with 
pigments ; they are certainly useful in teaching us, when 
studying from nature, fearlessly to follow even the most 
evanescent indications of the eye, utterly regardless of the 
fact that they disobey laws which we have learned from 
the palette. 

We pass on now to consider the changes in tint which 
take place when coloured surfaces are illuminated by lamp- 
light or gas-light. If we undertake to make experiments in 
this direction simply by viewing coloured surfaces by lamp- 
light in a room illuminated with it, correct results can not 
be obtained ; for by this very method we have practically 
rendered ourselves colour-blipd to a certain extent, and 
have become incapable of judging correctly of quite a series 
of hues. Gas-light is deficient in the violet, blue, and blu- 
ish-green rays ; hence its resultant tint is not white, but 
orange-yellow. If we are immersed in this light, it will 
appear to us white, and our judgment of all colours will be 
more or less disturbed : yellow surfaces will appear white 
or whitish ; blue surfaces, more greyish-blue, or, if pale, 



even pure grey. The actual changes effected by artificial 
illumination may readily be studied by the following sim- 
ple method, contrived by the author : A camera-obscura is 
placed in a room illuminated by ordinary daylight ; in 
front of it, at a short distance, is placed a gas-flame or lamp- 
flame, in such a way that the lens of the camera is capable 
of forming an image ' of it of about half the natural size. 
(See Fig. 63.) This image is now allowed to fall on col- 
oured stuffs or on coloured paper placed behind the lens of 
the camera at S ; it can be viewed, as indicated, through 


Fig. 63. — Light from Gas-flame is concentrated by Lens of Camera and falls on Coloured 


the top of the camera, and the resultant tint noted. In 
the experiments made by the author a gas-flame was em- 
ployed, along with a set of painted disks, representing the 
principal colours. The disks, fourteen in number, were the 
same as described in the following chapter, and constituted 
together seven pairs, the colours of which were comple- 
mentary, two and two. Below are the results : 

1. A cai-mine disk when illuminated by the gas-flame 
assumed an intense red hue, even more brilliant than by 
daylight ; the complementary disk, painted blue-green, 
appeared of a yellowish-green, not saturated, but rather pale. 


2. Vermilion appeared of an intense fiery red ; its com- 
plement, green-blue, lost in strength, and became yellowish- 
green and rather pale. 

3. Orange appeared brilliant ; cyan-blue, the comple- 
ment, became greenish-yellow and lost in saturation. 

4. Yellow became brilliant, showing a tendency toward 
orange ; its complement, blue, appeared white, or rather 
pure grey. On the same occasion disks painted with 
chrome-yellow were examined : two of them were rendered 
somewhat orange-yellow ; the third was brought to almost 
a full orange hue by the gas-light. A disk painted with 
gamboge-yellow acquired something of an orange tint under 
the gas-light. 

5. Greenish-yellow was brought to a pure yellow ; its 
complement, artificial ultramarine-blue, appeared violet. 

6. Greenish-jello'w became pure yellow ; its comple- 
ment, violet, was converted into a strong red-purple. 

7. Full green passed into a bright, strong yellowish- 
green ; its complement, purple, assumed an intense pm'- 
plish-red hue, displaying less blue than by daylight. 

These are the actual changes produced by the artificial 
illumination as they appeared to an eye placed in ordinary 
daylight, and consequently able correctly to note the sev- 
eral tints. When the disks were examined at night by gas- 
light, in many cases a different result was reached. The 
carmine and vermilion disks still appeared very brilliant, 
the tint in the case of the former being a pure red, while 
the vermilion showed a tendency to red-orange. The orange 
disk seemed to be changed in tint to a redder orange hue ; 
the yellow, on the contrary, appeared paler. The greenish- 
yellow disks did not show much change. The full green 
was intense, appearing perhaps more bluish than by day- 
light. Blue-green was liable to be confused with blue, 
cyan-blue and blue with green ; artificial ultramarine-blue 
appeared more purplish than by daylight ; violet became 
purple, and purple a very red purple. Some other disks 


were also examined on this occasion : gamboge and chrome- 
yellow showed a loss in saturation, looking whitish ; indigo 
appeared dull greenish-grey ; Prussian-blue was confused 
with blue-green ; genuine ultramarine-blue still was always 
blue with a slight tendency to purple ; cobalt-blue exhib- 
ited this same tendency, which reached a maximum in 
French-blue. All the blues appeared much duller and 
greyer than by daylight. 

By comparing these two sets of experiments, it will be 
seen how greatly the judgment of colour was influenced by 
the circumstance that the prevailing illumination was yel- 
low, and that hence a certain shade of yellow stood for 
white, and gavo' a false standard to which all the colours 
were referred. This was particularly noticeable in the case 
of the yellow disks ; in point of fact, as the first set of ob- 
servations showed, they reflected to the eye much yellow 
light, and, as far as the mere physical action went, ought 
to have produced the sensation of a strong, briUiant yellow 
hue ; but, as all surfaces which professed to be white were 
really (owing to the gas-light) yellow, this competition 
caused the yellow disks to appear pale. Another case illus- 
trates this disturbed judgment even better. In the first set 
of experiments it was found that the blue disk when illu- 
minated by gas-light really assumed a pure grey hue with- 
out any trace of blue ; but at night, although it must have 
sent to the eye this same pure grey light, it always appeared 
either blue, greenish-blue, or bluish-green ; in other words, 
the blue disk, when held near the gas-flame, sent to the eye 
white light, which appeared blue, by contrast with the pre- 
vailing yellow illumination. It is hardly necessary to add 
that these causes affect our 'judgment of paintings and dec- 
orations at night to a very considerable degree, the blues 
being rendered less conspicuous, the blue-greys being mostly 
abolished, and the yellows losing in apparent intensity. 
Genuine ultramarine-blue is less affected than the other 
blues, cobalt and artificial ultramarine-blue becoming pur- 


plish, and Prussian-blue quite greemsh. It hence follows 
that paintings in which the blue tones are rather overdone 
appear often better by gas-light ; but this is hardly the case 
when the green hues are of somewhat too great strength, 
the evil seeming often to be exaggerated by artificial illumi- 
nation, which must of course be due to an act of the judg- 
ment, as the greens really assume a more yellowish appear- 
ance by gas-light or lamp-light, as was proved by the first 
set of experiments. From this it follows that, if the chro- 
matic composition of a picture is quite right for daylight, 
it will be more or less wrong when viewed by gas-light ; 
hence it would be desirable to illuminate picture galleries 
at night with some kind of artificial lohite-light, a problem 
which the future will no doubt solve. 

All the appearances which have thus far been considered 
could be satisfactorily observed and studied by a person 
possessed of only a single eye. Let us now turn our atten- 
tion for a moment to some very remarkable phenomena 
which occur when different colours are presented to the 
right and left eye. This is a case which happens occasion- 
ally, particularly when we look at the reflection from pol- 
ished surfaces or from water. In order to simplify matters, 
let us take a case where, for instance, yellow light is pre- 
sented to the right and blue light to the left eye. It is 
very easy to make an experiment of this kind with the aid 
of the stereoscope. Selecting one of the common paper 
slides, we colour it as indicated in Fig. 64, and then view 
it with the stereoscope. We have already seen that blue 
and yellow light when presented to the same eye undergo 
mixture on the retina and produce the sensation we call 
white. This would lead us very naturally to suppose that, 
if blue light were presented to the right eye and yellow to 
the left, -the two sensations would be united in the brain 
and would call up that of white. The effect is, however, 
of a much more complicated character. Viewed in the 



stereoscope the figure will appear at one momeiit blue, 
then yellow, as though it had no permanent colour of its 
own ; sometimes, again, the observer seems to see one col- 
our through the other, and is distinctly conscious of the 
presence of both occupying apparently the same place, thus 
giving rise to the idea that the object might have at the 
same time two distinct colours. Meanwhile the little draw- 
ing assumes a highly lustrous appearance, as though it were 
made of polished glass ; this is quite beautiful, and strikes 
with some astonishment those who see it for the first time. 
After some little practice has been gained, the blue and 
yellow colours will melt into a lustrous blue-grey or pure 
grey tint now and then for a few seconds, when again the 


















Fig. 64.— Slide for the Stereoscope, the Eight and Left Hand being differently coloured. 

contradictory and confusing phantoms just mentioned will 
make their appearance. Taken altogether, the effect is 
quite wonderful, and suggestive of something like a new 
sensation. There has been a good deal of controversy as 
to whether a true blending or mixture of the two colours 
actually does take place in the brain. The experiments of 
De Haldat and Dove, and afterward of Lubeck, Foucault, 
and R6gnault, all point to this result. The results obtained 
by the author are also favorable to this view. But it must 
be confessed that the mixture obtained by this method dif- 
fers in one respect from those previously described. For, 
when coloured light is mixed with the aid of rotating disks 
or by Lambert's method, we see only the resultant tint, the 


two components disappearing entirely to give place to it. 
On the other hand, in this binocular mixtui-e of colours, the 
presence of each of the original colours is all the while to 
some extent felt, and we are disposed to say that we see a 
neutral or grey hue which has evidently been made out of 
blue and yellow. Careful experiments by the author 
' proved that the tint of the true mixture often differed from 
that obtained by the use of the stereoscope ; colours which 
were pale, however, united more readily than intense ones, 
and gave less divergent results.* The binocular mixture of 
colours always produces more or less lustre ; it is not even 
necessary to employ distinct colours, the same effect being 
brought about by the mixture of a light and dark shade of 
the same colour, or simply by the binocular union of white 
and black, as was shown by Dove. The lustrous appear- 
ance of waves, ripples, and broken reflections in water is in 
each case mainly produced in this way, and hence, strictly 
speaking, can not be imitated by artists, who are necessarily 
obliged to present the same colours, the same light or dark 
shades, impartially to both eyes. It is for reasons similar 
to the above that a somewhat lustrous appearance is com- 
municated to an oil painting by varnish, or to a water- 
colour drawing by glass ; the eye sees the picture through 
the light slightly reflected from the glass or varnish, and is 
enabled apparently to penetrate beneath the mere surface 
of the pigment, and this slight illusion falls in with and 
helps the design of the artist. 

* " American Jburnal of Science," May, 1865. 



In the previous chapter we found that the mixture of 
two masses of coloured light in some cases produced white 
light ; this was, for example, true of mixtures of ultrama- 
rine-blue and yellow, or of red and greenish-blue. Any 
two colours which by their union produce white light are 
called complementary. An accurate knowledge of the 
nature and appearance of the complementary colours is 
important for artistic purposes, since these colours furnish 
the strongest possible contrasts. The best, in fact the 
only, method of becoming acquainted with the appearance 
of colours which ai-e complementary is by actually studying 
them with the aid of suitable apparatus. The results thus 
obtained should be at the time registered, not in writing, but 
by imitating as far as possible the actual tints with brush 
and palette. By the aid of polarized light it is possible to 
produce with ease and certainty a large series of colours 
which are truly complementary. There are quite a number 
of instruments for accomplishing this, but perhaps the sim- 
plest and best is that which was contrived by Brtlcke for 
this express purpose, and called by him a schistoscope. (See 
Fig. 65.) This little apparatus is merely a combination of 
a low-power simple microscope with a polariscope, and can 
easily be constructed. Starting from below, P is a piece of 
white cardboard, which is fastened to the stand as indicated, 
and is consequently capable of being turned so as to reflect 
upward more or less white light, as may be required. N" is 



a Nicol's prism, whicli polarizes the light thus reflected ; it 
is attached to a blackened stage, S. At A is a smaU square 
aperture two millimetres in size. C is a crystal of calc 
spar ; L is a convex lens of a focus such as to cause the two 
images of the square opening furnished by the calc spar 
just to touch each other. G and G are polished wedges of 
glass, the angles being 18° ; for rough experiments they 
may be dispensed with. In order to use this apparatus, 

Fig. 65. — The Schistoscope, for the production of Complementary Colours. (Brucke ) 

the tube containing the calc spar is to be moved tUl distinct 
vision is obtained of the square opening in the stage by 
the eye placed at L, or rather of the two square openings 
which will be seen ; the tube is then to be revolved till one 
of these images disappears entirely, and is to be left in this 
position. Besides the instrument it is necessary to provide 
a large number of thin slips of selenite or crystalized sul- 
phate of lime. If a clear transparent piece of this sub- 
stance is procured, it will be easy with a penknife to split 
off two or three hundred thin slips, and then with the 
aid of the instrument to select those which are worth pre- 


serving. To observe the colours it is only necessary to lay 
one of the slips on the stage between the calc-spar prism 
and the Nicol's prism, and then to turn the selenite till two 
brightly coloured squares are seen, as is indicated in Fig. 
66. These two squares will always have colours which are 

Pra. (36.— Complementary Colours as exhibited by the Bchlstoscope of Brucke. 

complementary. The object of preparing a large number 
of the slips of selenite is the production of a large series of 
complementary tints. The thinner slips furnish colours 
that are more saturated ; those which are thick give pale 
colours, or colours mixed with much white light. It will 
be found in this way that the following pairs of colours are 
complementary : 

Table of Complementary Colours. 

Red Green-blue.* 

Orange Cyan-blue. 

* Following Helmholtz, most writers give bluish-green as the comple- 
ment to red. These obsei-vations of Helmholtz were made on the spectrum, 
the field being small and only a single eye employed. Extended observa- 
tions with coloured disks, the hue of which can be studied in a more natu- 
ral way and with both eyes simultaneously, have convinced the present 
writer that the complement of vermilion is a very green blue, and even the 
complement of carmine is a very green blue rather than a blue-green. 


Yellow Ultramarine-blue.* 

Greenish-yellow Violet. 

Green Purple. 

In Fig. 67 these complementary colom-s are arranged in 
a circle. They are of course only a few of the pairs that 
can be noticed. The tints situated between red and orange 
will have complements lying between greenish-blue and 
cyan-blue ; those between orange and yellow, again, will 
find complements between cyan-blue and ultramarine-blue, 
etc. As before remarked, it is a good plan to copy the 
results with water-colours ; this fixes the facts in the mem- 
ory far better than mere momentary inspection. 







y \ 



\.„^ Q.BLUE 





Fig. 67. — Complementary Colours arranged in a Circle. 

To study the complementary colours with the aid of the 
spectrum is a much more troublesome process ; still, it is of 
interest for us to know that the results are the same as 
when polarized light is employed. Another point now de- 
serves consideration. It might be supposed that the lumi- 
nosity or apparent brightness of colours which are comple- 
mentary would be the same, but this is far from being true ; 
yellow, for example, is much more luminous than its com- 
filementary blue, and the difference between greenish-yellow 
and violet is still greater. Helmholtz, using the pure col- 

* The oomplement of genuine ultramarine-blue is yellow, that of arti- 
ficial ultramarine being a greenish-yellow. The artificial pigment, or 
French-Wue, is a riolet-blue. 


ours of the spectrum, ascertained tliat the order of the 
luminosities of the complementary colours is about that 
given in the following table : 


Orange and green about the same. 

Red and cyan-blue about the same. 



From this it follows that a violet which appears to the 
eye quite dark is able to balance a bright greenish-yellow, 
and form with it white, and the same is true of ultrama- 
rine-blue and yellow ; red and its complement green-blue 
have about the same, luminosities ; orange is somewhat 
brighter to the eye than its complement cyan-blue. There 
is another way of stating these facts : we can say that in 
mixtures violet has a greater power of saturation than any 
of the colours ; next follows ultramarine-blue, then red and 
cyan-blue, etc. 

The method of studying complementary colours with 
the aid of polarized light and plates of selenite is simple and 
beautiful, but there are many cases which it does not reach ; 
above all, it fails to furnish us with the means of ascertain- 
ing the complementary tints in just those instances which are 
of particular interest, viz., the pigments. This happens be- 
cause the colours furnished by the plates of selenite are for 
the most part quite like those of the spectrum, only mixed 
more or less with white light. We should seek in vain 
among them for good representatives of olive-greens or 
chocolate-browns and many other common tints. One of 
the problems that present themselves most frequently is to 
ascertain the complementary colour of some particular pig- 
ment or mixture of pigments. For the rough solution of 
such questions a method given by Dove can be employed : 
A small square of paper, an inch or less in size, is to be 
painted with the pigment in question and placed on a sheet 


of black paper, and viewed througli an achromatized prism 
of calc spar. This is shown in Fig. 68, and has the property 

Fig. 68.— Achromatic Prism of Calc Spar. 

of furnishing when held before the eye two equally bright 
images of objects viewed through it. It is used in this ex- 
periment instead of a plain calc-spar prism, because it gives 
a greater separation of the two images, and thus allows the 
employment of larger squares of coloured paper. As the 
finding of the colour which is complementary to any given 
one depends entirely on experiment, a second piece of pa- 
per, also an inch square, is now to be painted with the col- 
our which it is supposed will be complementary to the 
first, and the two painted papers are to be combined together 
with the aid of the calc-spar prism. Let us suppose that we 
wish to obtain the complement of a dull reddish-brown. 
The red-brown square is placed on the black paper ; beside 
it we lay a piece painted with a dull bluish-green grey, and 
arrange matters so that an image of the red-brown paper 
falls on one furnished by the blue-grey paper. If the two 
colours are complementary, their joint image will be white, 
or rather pure grey. If, instead of pure grey, it shows a 
tendency to reddish-grey or bluish-grey, the colour of the 
second slip of paper must be modified accordingly. This 
operation is facilitated by constantly comparing the tint 
obtained with that of a slip of pure grey paper, placed on 
the same sheet of black paper. When the process is fin- 
ished, the appearance will be that indicated in Fig. 69. 

The practical objections to this mode of experimenting 
are, that the calc spar reduces the luminosities of the col- 
oured papers, and that, owing to the imperfect means of 


comparison, one is too apt to accept as pure grey any 
approximation to this tint. For all accurate work it is far 
better to employ Maxwell's disks in the manner now to be 
described.* Let us suppose that we wish to obtain the 

Fig. 69. — Eed-brown and Blae-Krey are combined in the central Image, and form a Pnre 
Grey. Below is a Grey placed for comparison. 

complement to a somewhat dark vermilion-red. The de- 
tails in an actual experiment were as follows : A disk was 
painted with the tint in question, and combined with two 
others painted with emerald-green and ultramarine-blue, as 
it was known beforehand that the desired colour would be 
a bluish-green of some kind. See Fig. 70, which shows 
also smaller black and white disks placed on the same axis 
for the purpose of obtaining a pure grey for comparison. 
It will be noticed that the red colour has been made to oc- 
cupy just one half of the disk, or 50 parts ; the remaining 
50 parts are to be divided up between the blue and green, 
as is found by experiment necessary. The result showed 

* For an account of Maxwell's disks, see previous chapter.. . 



that 50 parts of red were neutralized by. 31 parts of emer- 
ald-green and 19 parts of artificial ultramarine-blue ; the 
three colours gave a grey identical with that furnished by 
13 parts white and 87 black. Putting this in the form of 
an equation, we have : 50 red + 31 em. -green + 19 ult.-blue 
= 13 white + 87 black. 

Fie. 70.— Emerald-green and TTl- 
tramarine-blue Disks arranged 
so as to neutralize Ued and pro- 
duce wi til it a Pure Grey. Cen- 
tral Black and White Disk for 
tlie production of a Pure Grey. 

Tig. 71.— Disks of Emerald-green 
and Ultramarine-blue arranged 
so as to give a Colour Comple- 
mentary to Eod. 

The next operation is to mix emerald-green and ultra- 
marine-blue in the proportion of 31 to 19, which will evi- 
dently give us the correct complement of our red. As 
these two colours in the last experiment occupied exactly one 
half of the disk, it evidently will be necessary to double 
them if they are to be spread over a whole disk ; accord- 
ingly, we combine them together, taking 62 parts of the 
green and 38 of the blue. (See Fig. 71.) This compound 
disk when set in rapid rotation gives us accurately the com- 
plementary colour of our red. It is seldom in practice that 
so complete a result as this can be obtained ; for it is evi- 
dent that, if the red colour had been more luminous, it 
would have been impossible to balance 50 parts of it with 
50 parts of the blue and green, however arranged ; the 
resultant tint would always have been a reddish-gvej. 
Conversely, if the red had been less luminous, a similar 


difficulty would have occurred : the resultant tint would 
have always been somewhat bluish green instead of pure 

We give now an actual experiment which illustrates the 
way in which the matter usually falls out, and shows at the 
same time the nature of the result to be expected. It was 
desired to obtain the complement to a dull yellow, some- 
what like the tint of brown pasteboard. A disk was painted 
with this colour and combined with one of artificial ultra- 
marine-blue, the small black and white disks of course 
being present. When this arrangement was set in rotation, 
it was found impossible to produce a pure grey, however 
the proportions of the blue and yellow disks were varied ; 
at the best the tint furnished was a purplish-grey. This of 
course indicated the necessity of adding some green to the 
blue : a disk of emerald-green was now added, when it was 
found that 43 parts yellow, combined with 43 parts ultra- 
marine-blue and 14 parts emerald-green, gave a grey identi- 
cal with that furnished by 24 parts of white and 76 black. 
The equation then reads : 41 yellow -j- 45 blue + 14 green 
= 24 white + 'J'6 black. Prom this it follows that, by mix- 
ing ultramarine-blue and emerald-green in the proportion 
of 45 to 14, a colour complementary to our yellow could be 
obtained. We then divide up 100 in this ratio, and assign 
76'3 parts to the blue and 23*7 to the green, combine the 
blue and green disks in this ratio, and by rotation obtain 
the complementary colour, which is a fine blue. This blue 
is, however, somewhat davker than the true complement of 
our yellow, for in the first experiment the yellow did not 
occupy fully one half of the disk, or 50 parts, but only 41 
parts ; if we had made it fill half the disk, the other col- 
ours would not have been luminous enough to balance it, 
and grey would not have been produced. It is easy for us 
to calculate how much too dark the tint is which we have 
obtained as the complement of the yellow : if we call the 
luminosity of the true complement 100, then that which we 


actually obtain is 69-5.* Hence, in using this complement, 
we must always allow for the fact that it is less luminous 
than the true complement in the degree above indicated. 
Furthermore, no better result could be obtained with the 
disks of blue and green which were used ; to improve the 
result, it would have been necessary to alter them so that 
they would become able to reflect more blue and green light 
to the eye. On the other hand, if they had originally re- 
flected too much green and blue light, this might have been 
diminished with the aid of a black disk, and the true com- 
plement accurately obtained. Hence it follows that we can 
obtain the true complement to a given colour with accu- 
racy only in those cases where we have at our disposal rep- 
resentatives of this complementary colour which are sufii- 
ciently intense — that is, at the same time luminous and 
saturated. The practical effect of this is, that we can not 
directly obtain the complementary tints of the most intense 
of the warmer pigments, such as carmine, vermilion, red 
lead, chrome-yeUow ; the colder pigments, like emerald- 
green, cobalt-blue, Prussian-blue, ultramarine, etc., aU fall- 
ing considerably below them in intensity. 

For many purposes it is convenient to possess a set of 
disks arranged in pairs and representing the main comple- 
mentary colours. It would of course require much time 
and patience to construct a set in which the colours were 
quite correct in the matter of hue and also in that of lumi- 
nosity ; and in such a set, with the pigments at our disposal, 
the red and orange hues would be quite dull, and the yel- 
lows little more than browns or olive-greens, for the reason 
above given. The author recently constructed a set in 
which the hues were nearly correct, and the luminosities as 
favourable as could be obtained without too much expendi- 
ture of time and trouble. Their relative intensities as 
pairs were also determined, as well as the amounts of white 
light which they furnished when combined in pairs. 

* See appendix to this chapter. 



Table or Complementabt Disks. 





Amount of white 
light furnished 
by the combi- 










Blue-green. . . . 
Green-blue . . . 
Greenish-blue . 


French-blue . . 







Greenish-yellow. . 
GremisJi-jeWovr. . 


It will be noticed that an attempt was made to have the 
.set so arranged as to furnish in each case, as far as possible, 
about the same amount of white light, so that in this re- 
spect the disks should have nearly the same rank. For an 
account of the pigments that were used, the reader is re- 
ferred to the appendix to the present chapter. With the 
aid of this set of complementary disks, hundreds or even 
thousands of pairs of complementary colours can be quickly 
produced. This is effected by combining any pair either 
with white or with black, or with both. For instance, all 
the reds darker than carmine can be obtained by combining 
the carmine disk with different proportions of a black disk, 
the corresponding complementary colours being furnished 
by the blue-green disk similarly treated ; in the same way, 
the reds paler than carmine and their complements are to 
be obtained by the addition of a white disk ; and finally, 
all the complementary red and blue-green greys are yielded 
by adding a white and a black disk to either of the two 
coloured disks. Hence it will be seen that, though a set of 
disks of this kind costs some trouble at the start, yet after- 
ward it more than repays the labour, by quickly supplying 
us with a vast range of colours which are either truly com- 



plementary in all respects, or defective only in tlie matter 
of luminosity to a calculable extent. 

We come now to a matter which at first sight will seem 
strange. We have seen that every colour has its comple- 
mentary colour, but more than this is true : every colour 
has many different complementary colours. This may best 
be illustrated by an experiment. Let us suppose we wish 
to study the colours which are complementary to that of 
our green-blue disk : We combine this disk with one of 
vermilion, to which it is complementary, so that we have 
50 parts of green-blue and as much vermilion as is found 
necessary. 'Now, as considerably less than 50 parts of ver- 
milion will represent the complement of our green-blue, we 
fill up the blank space left by the vermilion with black. 
After being adjusted so as to give a grey, the disk was 
found to be arranged as radicated in Fig. 72. It was found, 
namely, that 50 parts of green-blue were just balanced and 
neutralized by 27 parts of vermilion, leaving 23 parts of 
the disk to be occupied by black. To render visible this 

Fig. 72.— Green-blue and the cotn- 
plementary amount of Vermilion. 


Fig. 78.— This Disk by rotation 
gives one of the Complements 
of Green-blue. 

complement of the green-blue, we combine a black and ver- 
milion disk in the proportion 23 to 27, or, what is the same 
thing, in that of 46 to 54, and rotate it. (See Fig. 73.) This 
furnishes us with a somewhat dark vermilion-red ; it is one of 
the complements of the green-blue. If we now replace the 


black in Fig. 72 by white, the proportions still remaining 
as 46 to 54, we produce a light-reddish flesh tint, quite dif- 
ferent ia appearance from the dark-red colour before ob- 
tained, but still accurately complementary to our green- 
blue, since it contains the same amount of red. If the 46 
parts of black are gradually replaced by white, a series of 
tints will be obtained differing in luminosity, but all red- 
dish, and all complementary to the same green-blue. The 
set of complementary disks above described furnishes great 
facilities for studying the different appearances assumed by 
pairs of complementary colours under these circumstances. 

Another point now deserves attention. Suppose that 
we select by daylight two painted surfaces with colours 
that are strictly complementary — for instance, red and 
green-blue. Afterward, if we view these two surfaces by 
lamp-light or gas-light, it will not at all follow that the 
colours will still neutralize each other and remain comple- 
mentary. It is easy to experiment on this matter with the 
aid of our set of complementary disks. By daylight it was 
found that 41 parts of carmine neutralized 59 parts of green- 
blue and gave a true grey : by gas-light these colours were 
no longer complementary, but, in the above-mentioned pro- 
portions, furnished a pretty strong red-purple. Experiment- 
ing still by gas-light, the red was reduced to 29 parts and 
the green-blue increased to 71, when the tint of the mixture 
became less red, but still neutralization could not be effect- 
ed : the two colours had by gas-light ceased to be comple- 
mentary, and it was found necessary to add 13-5 parts of 
green to reestablish this relation between them. The same 
fact was observed with the following pairs of complemen- 
tary colours : 

Vermilion and green-blue. 
Orange " cyan-blue. 
Yellow " blue. 



With the pair greenish-yellow and ultramarine-blue, the, 
efEect -was reversed : it was necessary by gas-light to re- 
duce the greenish-yellow somewhat and to replace a portion 
of it .by orange. The pairs greenish-yellow and violeti 
green and pm-ple, remained complementary alike by day- 
light and gas-light. The following table shows the results 
when the disks were arranged so as to appear complemen- 
tary by daylight and by gas-light : 


By dayUght. 

By gas-light. 

40''? carmine and 59'3 green-blue 

36 vermilion and 64 green-blue 

47 orange and 53 cyan-blue 









39-2 yellow and 60-8 blue 

52-'? greenish-yellow and 47'3 Prenoh- 
blue*. . ..; 

53 greenish-yellow and 47 violet 

46'5 green and 53 'o purple 

Below follow the proportions when the disks appeared 
coraplementary by gas-light : 


29 carmine, 57 green-blue, and 14 green.. . . 
27 vermilion, 57 green-blue, and 16 green . . 

37 orange, 50 cyan-blue, and 13 green 

37'5 yellow, 56 blue, and 6'5 green 

45 greenish-yellow, 48 French-blue, 7 orange. Purplish. 

52 greenish-yeWow, 48 violet ' Grey. 

47 green, 63 purple " 

By daylight 

By gas-light. 

Strong green. 

Strong green-grey 


These changes depend on two causes. First, the composi- 

* Artificial ultramarine-blue. 

f Really a dark yellow, which appeared by gas-light grey. 


tion of gas-light is different from that of white light ; the 
violet, blue, and greenish-blue rays in gas-light are com- 
paratively feeble, and, owing to this circumstance, the disks 
must of course present a different appearance when illumi- 
nated with it, the violet, blue, and green-blue pigments ap- 
pearing relatively darker. This circumstance would, how- 
ever, merely require us to use more of these hues, and would 
not necessitate the introduction of foreign colours. The 
second cause is that by gas-light we are able to effect neu- 
tralization only when the mijcture of the two colours has a 
tint similar to that of the general illumination itself, which 
in this case is not white, but yellow, inclining toward or- 
ange. It follows from these experiments that if red or 
orange is to be contrasted with its complement by gas-light, 
it will be necessary to make the contrasting colour more 
greenish than would be allowable by daylight ; the same is 
true to a less extent of orange-yellow and of yellow itself. 

Leaving these practical matters for a moment, let us 
turn our attention to a couple of theoretical points which 
are not without interest. In a previous chapter we have 
seen that colour varies with the length of the waves of 
light : knowing this, we are very naturally led to inquire 
whether there is any fixed relation between the lengths of 
waves which produce upon us the sensations of comple- 
mentary colours. Upon . studying the matter with the help 
of a chart of the normal spectrum, we find that no such 
relation exists, owing to the circumstance that the change 
in colour in dijQEerent parts of the spectrum is not directly 
proportional to the change in wave-length, as was pointed 
out in a previous chapter. Helmholtz found that the rela- 
tion which does exist is not a fixed one for all the different 
pairs of complementary colours, but that it varies consider- 
ably. With some of the pairs this relation is as 1 to 1'2, 
in -others as 1 is to 1"333 ; or, using the musical notation, 
we Would say that the relation varies from that existing 
between a note and its fourth to that between a note and 


its diminislied third. THs is one of the many facts which 
are fatal to any chromatic theory that has a musical basis 
for its foundation. 

The other matter demanding our attention is the mode 
in which the phenomena of complementary colours are ex- 
plained by the theory of Thomas Young. In a previous 
chapter we saw that a mixture of red, green, and violet 
light, when presented to the eye, produced the sensation of 
white ; and in the present chapter we have found that this 
same sensation can be produced by the mixture merely of 
two properly selected colours. Now, according to Young's 
theory, the sensation of white is produced when the thi-ee 
sets of nerve-fibrils with which the retina is provided are 
stimulated to about the same degree of activity ; hence it 
must follow that two colours can stimulate all the three sets 
of nerves as effectually as the three fundamental colours. 
It is this fact that we are called on to account for, and the 
explanation in the principal cases is as follows : 

Red and green-blue are complementary colours, because 
red light stimulates the red nerves, and green-blue light 
both the green and violet nerves ; the joint action of the 
three sets gives white light. Oi^sa^e and cyan-blue is the 
next pair : orange light sets in action the red nerves power- 
fully, also somewhat the green nerves ; cyan-blue sets in 
action the green and the violet nerves ; all thi-ee sets of 
nerves acting, the result is the sensation of white. The 
case is much the same with yellow and genuine ultramarine- 
blue : both colours stimulate two sets of nerves ; that is, 
the yellow acts on the red and green nerves, the blue on 
the green and violet nerves. With green and purple the 
first colour acts of course on its own set of nerves, the sec- 
ond on the red and violet nerves. All this is strictly in 
accordance with the principles of Young's theory, as will 
be found by reference to the chapter in which it is treated. 

This explanation enables us to understand a fact which 
otherwise might appear quite strange, viz. : that if we take 


away from white light any colour, the light which remains 
will have the complementary hue. Thus, if we strike out 
from white light the orange rays, the remainder wiU appear 
of a rather pale cyan-blue. The table of complementary 
colours explains this result ; thus, 

Red and green-blue make White. 

Orange and cyan-blue make White. 

Yellow and blue make ' White. 

Green-yellow and violet make White. 

Green and purple make White. 

All these five pairs of colours are present in white light. 
If we remove from it orange, tljen cyan-blue is the only 
colour which is not neutralized ; all the other colours bal- 
ance up and make white light, which mixes with and pales 
the uncombined cyan-blue. The explanation is the same in 
all the other cases. It follows from this that the comple- 
mentary colours produced by the method of striking out a 
colour are rendered rather pale by the presence of a consid- 
erable amount of white light. This is the reason why the 
complementary colours obtained by the use of polarized 
light are always rather pale. The presence of this white 
light, as will be shown in the following chapter, actually 
somewhat alters the tint of the coloured light mixed with 
it ; red is made to incline to purple, orange to red, purple 
and ultramarine to violet. 

Before closing this chapter it may be well to make some 
remarks concerning the complement of pure yellow, and 
the complements of the several varieties of the more com- 
mon blue pigments. In different works the complement of 
yellow is given as indigo-blue, ultramarine-blue, or simply 
as blue. Genuine ultramarine-blue is complementary to 
pure yellow, the complement of artificial ultramarine-blue 
being a decidedly greenish-yellow. Gamboge gives a yel- 
low which is slightly orange ; its complement is the pig- 


ment known as cobalt-blue. The complement of Prussian- 
blue was determined and found by the author to be a 
somewhat orange-yellow ; it was made by mixing with a 
rotating disk 65 parts of pale chrome-yellow with 35 parts 
of vermilion. The complement of indigo, used as a water- 
colour pigment, was also determined with care, and found 
to correspond quite closely with that of Prussian-blue'; it 
hence follows that indigo may be considered to be the same 
as darkened Prussian-blue, and not to represent, as some 
authors have suggested, darkened ultramarine-blue. The 
term indigo was applied by Sir Isaac Newton to designate 
the more refrangible blue of the spectrum ; to this it does 
not really at all correspond in any respect, and in the pres- 
ent work the term ultramarine-blue is substituted for it. If 
the different blues be arranged in the order of the spectrum, 
we shall have cyan-blue, indigo or Prussian-blue, cobalt- 
blue, genuine ultramarine and artificial ultramarine, the last 
being a violet-blue. Among the yellow pigments the some- 
what orange-tiated chrome-yellow is complementary to in- 
digo and Prussis(n-blue ; chrome-yellow with a still more 
orange hue has a complement nearer to cyan-blue. 


The mode of calculating the relative intensities of pigments 
which are complemeutaxy'is quite simple, and is here illustrated by 
an example. Let us suppose that 25 parts of a certain red neutral- 
ize 75 parts of a green-blue. The compound disk will then appear 
as in Fig. 74. It is evident that the intensity of the green-blue is 
only one third of that of the red, since it takes three times as much 
green-blue as red to effect neutralization. Let I be the greater in- 
tensity and I' the lesser ; then we have — 

25 I = 75 r 
Making the greater intensity 100, we have — 


25 X 100 = 75 r 
I' = 33-3 


Fig. 74.— Disk with 25 Parts Eed and T5 Parts Green-blue. 

That is, if we call the intensity of our red 100, that of the green- 
hlne will be only 33-3. In the case given in the present chapter we 
have — 

41 1 = 59 1' 

41 X 100 = 59 r 

r = 69-5 


Carmine as a water-colonr ; for its complenjentary green-blue, a 
mixture of cobalt-blue and emerald-green. 

Vermilion as a water-colour ; for its complement the same as 
above, the proportions being changed. 

For the first two pairs, then, we can employ two of our most 
intense and saturated pigments ; this, however, is not possible with 
orange and yellow, without producing disks of a rank different from 
the preceding, or obtaining disks which show greater differences in 
luminosity than any which have been tolerated in the table given in 
the present chapter. Thus a fine orange colour was mixed from 
red lead and Indian-yellow, which would have been considered by 
most painters, as I suppose, a fair companion for -the carmine and 
vermilion; or, if objection had been made, it would have been 
rather to its want of intensity. Placing the intensity of this orange 
as 100, the intensity of its complement (made of cobalt-blue and 
emerald-green) was only 47, a figure smaller than any in the table. 


These two colours, however, furnished a white such as could be 
obtained by mixing, with the aid of disks, 36 parts of white with 64 
of Mack ; this n amber is considerably higher than those allowed in 
the table. The combination then was rejected, because it was faulty 
in two respects, and a dull-looking orange substituted for it. This 
dull, rather poor-looking orange balanced its complementary cyan- 
blue well, and witb it gave 27 per cent, of white light, wMoh was 
fuUy up, to the average, and proved that in the matter of luminosity 
it belonged in the set rather than the disk just mentioned. 

A similar experience was encountered with yellow. Two beau- 
tiful disks were prepared with gamboge and cobalt-blue. Setting 
the intensity of the gamboge as 100, that/of the cobalt was 90, 
which was nearly what was wanted. The combination, however, 
gave on rotation a white which was about 100 per cent, too bright, 
showing that the two disks belonged in a set sucb as would be fur- 
nished by pigments twice as bright as those employed by me ; but 
no such pigments exist. This is only another illustration of the 
fact, already several times mentioned, that our bright-yeUow pig- 
ments, such as gamboge, chrome-yeUow, cadmium-yellow, etc., can 
not properly be reckoned as the equal companions of the other pig- 
ments ordinarily found on the painter's palette. This circumstance 
affects our judgment, and we are surprised at the lack of brilliancy 
of the yellow space even in the prismatic spectrum,- and at the fact 
that mixtures of red and green light produce yellow light of so infe- 
rior a character. On the other hand, the possession of such excep- 
tional pigments as the bright yellows and orange-yellows enables 
the artist at will to extend his scale of brilliancy in an upward 
direction much farther than otherwise would be possible. 

The greenish-yellows were made with gamboge mixed with a 
little Prussian-blue, the pigments being laid, not on drawing-paper, 
but on rather absorbent cardboard, which dulled the colours to a 
desirable extent. For violet, " Hoffmann's violet B. B." was em- 
ployed, none of the violet pigments used by artists being of the 
slightest use on account of their very dull appearance and poverty 
in the matter of violet light. The green was made by mixing a 
little chrome-yellow with emerald-green ; the purple was " Hoff- 
mann's violet R. E. R." 



In our study thus far of coloured surfaces it has been 
tacitly assumed that theu* action on the eye is a constant 
one, and that a red surface, for example, will always appear 
red to a healthy eye as long as it remains visible. In point 
of fact, however, this is not quite true, for it is found that 
coloured surfaces undergo changes of tint when they are 
seen under a very bright or very feeble illumination. Ar- 
tists are well aware that scarlet cloth under bright sunshine 
approaches orange in its tint ; that green becomes more 
yellowish ; and that, in general, a bright illumination causes 
all colours to tend somewhat toward yellow in their hues. 
Helmholtz, Bezold, Rutherfurd, and others have made simi- 
lar observations on the pure colours of the prismatic spec- 
trum, and have found that even they undergo changes 
analogous to those just indicated. The violet of the spec- 
trum is very easily affected : when it is feeble (that is, 
dark), it approaches purple in its hue ; as it is made strong- 
er, the colour changes to blue, and finally to a whitish-grey 
with a faint tint of violet-blue. The changes with the 
ultramarine-blue of the spectrum follow the same order, 
passing first into sky-blue, then into whitish-blue, and final- 
ly into white. Green as it is made brighter passes into yel- 
lowish-green, and then into whitish-yellow ; for actual con- 
version into white it is necessary that the illumination should 


be dazzling. Red resists these changes more than the other 
colours ; but, if it be made quite bright, it passes into 
orange and then into bright yellow. 

It is remarkable that these changes take place with the 
pure colours of the spectrum ; but the explanation, accord- 
ing to the theory of Young and Helmholtz, is not diflScult. 
Let us illustrate it by an example, taking the case of green 
light, which, as we have seen, acts most powerfully on 
what we termed the green nerves, less powerfully on the 
red and violet nerves. Now, as long as the intensity of our 
green light is small, it acts almost entirely on its own pecu- 
liar set of nerves ; but, when the green light is made bright- 
er, it begins to set into action also the red and to a lesser 
extent the violet nerves ; the result of this is that the sen- 
sation of white begins to be mingled with that of green, all 
three sets of nerves being now to some extent in action. 
As in this process the violet' nerves lag behind, the main 
modification of the colour at this stage is due to the action 
of the red nerves, which cause it to appear more yellowish ; 
hence it changes first to a yellowish-green, then to greenish- 
yellow, and finally, if the light is very bright, to a whitish- 
yellow. Corresponding to this, when red light is made 
very bright, the red and the green nerves are set into ac- 
tion, the result being that the colour changes in appearance 
from red to yellow. In this case the violet nerves play a 
secondary part, and their action merely causes this yellow 
to appear somewhat whitish. When pure" violet light is 
made quite bright, immediately the green nerves begin to 
add their action to that of the violet, and the tint quickly 
changes from violet to ultramarine-blue ; the red nerves are 
soon also stimulated, and, in connection with the green, fur- 
nish the sensation of yellow ; this yellow, mixing with that 
of the ultramarine-blue before mentioned, gives as a result- 
ant tint a whitish-grey with a faint tint of blue or violet- 
blue. The explanation of the changes which the interme- 
diate colours of the spectrum undergo is analogous to that 


just given. The tendency, in all cases is to the production 
of a yellowish- white, or to a white, if the coloured light be 
very hright. If its brightness be more moderate, the col- 
our will still appear paler and as though mixed with a cer- 
tain aniount of yellow. Artists, by taking advantage of 
these facts, are able to represent in their paintings scenes 
under high degrees of illumination. According to Aubert, 
the whitest white paper is only 57 times brighter than the 
darkest black paper ; and it is within these narrow limits 
that the painter is compelled to execute his design : hence 
the necessity of employing illusions like the one just men- 
tioned. Many effects in nature are beautiful and striking, 
as much on account of their high degree of luminosity as 
for any other reason. The artist is not able to transfer to 
his canvas the brightness, which in this case is really the 
attractive element ; but by the use of pale colours, well 
modulated, he suggests a flood of light, and we are delight- 
ed, not so much with the pale tints as with the recollections 
they call up. 

We have just examined the remarkable alterations which 
the pure colours of the spectrum undergo when their lumi- 
nosity is made very great, and pass now to the changes 
which occur when the intensity of coloured light is made 
very feeble. Von Bezold has made some interesting obser- 
vations of this character on the colours of the spectrum. 
With a very bright prismatic spectrum he was able to see 
a pure yellow near D and a whitish-blue near F, the other 
colours being in their usual positions. When the illumina- 
tion was only moderately bright, the yellow space dimin- 
ished and became very narrow ; the ultramarine-blue van- 
ished, and was replaced by violet. With less illumination, 
the orange-yellow space assumed the colour of red lead, and 
the yellow vanished, being replaced by a greenish tint ; the 
cyan-blue was replaced by green, the blue and ultramarine- 
blue by violet. The spectrum at this stage presented scarce- 
ly more than the three colours, red, green, and violet. With 


a still lower illumination, the violet vanished, the red be- 
came red-hrown, and the green was visible as a pale-green 
tint ; then the red-brown disappeared, the green still re- 
maining, though very feeble. With still less light, even 
this suggestion of colour vanished, and the light appeared 
simply grey. 

The tendency in these experiments is evidently just the 
reverse of what was observed where the illumination was 
very bright. In that case the coloured light as it increased 
in brightness gradually set all three sets of nerves into ac- 
tion, and the result was white or yellowish- white ; but here 
the action of the coloured light as it grows feebler is more 
and more confined to a single set of nerves. From this it 
results that those colour-sensations which are due to the 
joint action of two sets of nerves speedily diminish when 
the colour is darkened, and are replaced by the primary 
sensations, red, green, or violet. The sensation of orange 
is produced by those light-waves in the spectrum which 
have a length such as to enable them to stimulate the red 
nerves strongly and the green nerves to a lesser degree ; 
hence, when orange-coloured light is made very weak, it 
fails to act on the green nerves while still feebly stimulat- 
ing the red, and consequently the sensation of orange passes 
over into red. For similar reasons the sensations of yellow 
and greenish-yellow pass into green, as do also those of 
greenish-blue and cyan-blue ; in the same way the sensa- 
tions of blue, ultramarine-blue, and violet-blue pass into 
violet. It is quite evident that these changes furnish an- 
other argument in favour of Young's theory of colour, and 
also tend to approve the selection of red, green, and violet 
as the fundamental colour-sensations, i 

In the experiment of Von Bezold just mentioned, after 
the spectrum had been darkened to a certain degree only 
three colours remained — red, green, and violet ; this dark 
red, however, as far as sensation goes, is somewhat changed 
in character, and, according to the unpublished experiments 


of Charles Pierce, has become somewhat purplish ; the same 
is true of the green, which is more bluish ; the violet alone 
is unchanged. Now, just these same effects can be produced 
by mixing small quantities of violet with red or green ; 
hence the final effect of darkening on all the colours of the 
spectrum is virtually to mix them with increasing quantities 
of violet light. The cause of these peculiar changes, ac- 
cording to the theory of Young and Helmholtz, resides in 
the fact that the violet nerves act more powerfully, rela- 
tively to the red and green nerves, when the light is feeble. 
For example, if we present to the eye pure green light, it 
will stimulate the green nerves strongly, the red and violet 
to a much less degree : we thus obtain a certain sensation, 
and call it green. If now we greatly diminish the intensity 
of the green light, it will of course affect the green nerves 
to a minor degree ; but, besides this, it has now less action 
on the red than on the violet nerves, so that virtually we 
have a mixture of green and violet, which will cause the 
green to appear bluish-green. The same explanation holds 
good for the red, dull red light producing less effect on the 
green than on the violet nerves. 

The change which colour undergoes when darkened is 
interesting from a practical point of view ; and accordingly 
the author made a series of experiments on this subject, 
using for that purpose coloured disks and the method of 
rotation. In these experiments we do not deal with the 
pure colours of the spectrum, but with surfaces painted 
with brilliant pigments, which correspond more nearly to 
the cases that present themselves to the artist and decora- 
tor. A black disk was in each case combined with a col- 
oured disk, as indicated in Fig. 75 ; a smaller disk of the 
same colour being either attached to the axis for compari- 
son or held from time to time near the rotating disk. It 
was ascertained by previous experiments that the amount 
of white light reflected by the black disk was small ; if we 
set the amount of light reflected by white cardboard as 100, 


then the black disk which was employed on this occasion 
reflected two per cent, of white light, or -^. The colour of 
the painted disks was in every case as intense, saturated. 

Fig. To.— Chrome-yellow and Black Disks Fig. T6.— The disk of Fig. 75 when in 
in combination. rotation becomes coloured olive-green. 

and brilliant as possible. The results obtained by rotation 
— that is, by reducing the luminosity of the colours by mix- 
ing black with them — are briefly indicated below : 

Table I. 

Name of Colour. Effect of reducing its Laminosity. 

Fuodamental red (carmine ) „ , , , , 

J ... , > Not changed, or made shghtly purplisQ. 

Vermilion More red, less orange-red. 

Red lead More red, less orange-red. 

Orange Brown. 

Chrome-yellow or gamboge. Olive-green. 

Greenish-yellow More greenish. 

Yellowish-green More pure green. 

Fundamental green Not changed, ormades%M!/ more bluish. 

Emerald-green More green, less blue-green. 

Blue-green More green, less bluish. 

Cyan-blue More greenish. 

Prussian-blue Dark grey-blue (not changed). 

Cobalt-blue Dark grey-blue (not changed). 

Ultramarine-blue (artificial). More violet, less blue. 

Violet Dark violet. 

Purple More violet, less red. 

Carmine Not much changed. 


It will be noticed that these results correspond more or less 
closely with those of Von Bezold, before given. 

Some of the changes in the experiments just mentioned 
were so great as to be quite astonishing, and might well 
tempt the beholder to believe that the black disk exercised 
some peculiar influence on the result ; this, however, was 
not the case, as the same results can be obtained without 
the black disk by simply reducing the illumination of the 
coloured disks by holding before the eye two Nicol's prisms, 
and turning them so as gradually to cut off the coloured 
light. On the other hand, if the tints that are obtained by 
using the black disk give the true appearances of surfaces 
painted with pure pigments, but viewed under a feeble il- 
lumination, then accurate copies of them ought, when power- 
fully illuminated, to appear once more brightly coloured, 
and of the original tints. This was found to be the case, 
for example, with gamboge, whei-e the change in colour by 
darkening was from a slightly orange-yellow to a fine olive- 
green. The olive-green colour was carefully copied with 
water-colours on a slip of paper, and afterward held in 
bright sunlight ; this caused it to appear yeUow, and made 
its colour resemble that of the gamboge disk placed near it, 
but in the shade. 

The general result of these experiments is, that, if the 
illumination is feeble, the colours become weaker, and there 
is on the whole a general tendency toward a darkish blue ; 
just as in the reverse case, where the colours are made very 
bright, there is a tendency toward a whitish-yellow. This 
average tint can best be studied by observing moonlight 
effects : here the more luminous colour appears to be a 
somewhat greenish-blue, the darker shades more like an ultra- 
marine-blue. With regard to this delicate point, the paint- 
ers of moonlight landscapes are as good an authority as we 
have, and the best of them are very decided as to the prev- 
alence of various shades of blue, greenish-blue, and violet- 
blue. Similar effects, though smaller in degree, are ob- 


served on dull, cloudy days, when the prevailing tint is a 
bluish-grey. Indeed, as Helmholtz remarks, simply view- 
ing a sunlit landscape through a pale-hlue glass suggests the 
idea of a cloudy day ; while reversing the process, and 
viewing a landscape on a dull, cloudy day through a pale- 
yellow glass, gives the impression of sunshine. Correspond- 
ing to thisj accidental streaks of yellow ochre or sawdust 
on the shaded pavement often suggest forcibly the idea of 
stray sunbeams ; and other examples of this kind of illu- 
sion might be mentioned. If we mix lampblack directly 
with pigments on the palette, their colour will of course be 
darkened, but the effects produced are not identical with 
those obtained by the method of rotation. Paper was 
painted with a strong wash composed of carmine and lamp- 
black, which imparted to it a dark-reddish, piu-plish hue. 
From this a disk was cut and an attempt made to match its 
tint by mixing, according to the method of rotation, car- 
mine and lampblack. In order to accomplish this, it was 

Fig. 7T.— Small central Disk composed of CardLoard washed "with a Mixture of Car- 
mine and Lampblack. This is nearly matched by disks painted with carmine, black, 
and white, in the proportions indicated. 

found necessary to introduce into this rotation-mixture a 
quantity of white ; the best match being effected when the 
compound disk was arranged as indicated in Pig. 77. This 
shows that the saturation or intensity of a coloured piigment 
is greatly reduced by mixing lampblack with it on the pal- 
ette, and is one reason why artists refuse to adopt this 


method of producing dark shades of colour. The mechani- 
cal mixture of lampblack with pigments, besides reducing 
their saturation, also usually at the same time changes some- 
what their hue. In the experiment just mentioned, after 
matching the two colours as well as possible, it was found 
that the carmine which had been mixed with lampblack on 
the palette was more violet in hue than that which had been 
mixed with black optically. Corresponding results were 
obtained with vermilion when mixed mechanically and op- 
tically with lampblack. In the first case the colour was 
more of an orange-red hue than in the last. Prussian-blue 
and lampblack on the palette give a much more greenish 
tint than when mixed by rotation, and similar changes can 
be observed with many other pigments. 

We have seen thus far that, as we change the luminosity 
of a coloured surface, so do we at the same time affect its 
hue, all coloured surfaces when very bright tending toward 
a whitish-yellow tint. Changes in luminosity, however, 
produce still other effects which are quite remarkable. If 
we arrange by ordinary daylight sheets of red and blue paper, 
which have as far as we can judge about the same degree 
of luminosity, and then carry them into a darkened room, 
we shall be surprised to find that the blue papers appear 
brighter than the red. Indeed, the room may be dark- 
ened so as to cause the red paper to appear black, while 
the blue still plainly retains its colour. These facts seem 
first to have been recorded by Purkinje and Dove. By 
similar experiments it can be proved that red, yellow, 
and orange-coloured surfaces are relatively more luminous 
when exposed to a bright light than blue and violet sur- 
faces ; the latter, on the other hand, have the advantage 
when the illumination is feeble. Thus Dove noticed a long 
time ago that this circumstance disturbs somewhat the bal- 
ance of the colours in paintings, if the observer lingers in 
a picture gallery as the twilight deepens. From this it 
follows that the chromatic composition of a painting should 


be somewhat varied, according as tlie picture is likely gen- 
erally to be seen under full daylight or in a darkened room. 
More attention would no doubt be paid by artists to this 
point if they were not obliged to contend with a still more 
serious obstacle in the large change which the tint of the 
illuminating light undergoes, according as daylight or gas- 
light is employed. 

It follows from what has just been said that photomet- 
ric comparisons of the brightness of differently coloured 
surfaces, if made under bright daylight, will no longer hold 
good in twilight, and that consequently we can. not under a 
certain illumination establish photometric relations that 
shall hold good under all other illuminations. For exam- 
ple, we may find under ordinary daylight that a certain 
piece of blue paper is just half as luniinous as a piece of 
red paper ; but it by no means follows that this statement 
will be true in a darkened room. Helmhbltz found that 
even the pure colours of the spectrum act in this same man- 
ner, particularly yellow and ultramarine-blue, or greenish- 
yellow and violet, the changes with the other colours 
being smaller. This fact suggests an interesting experi- 
ment : Yellow and ultramarine-blue are complementary, 
that is, together make up white light ; suppose now we 
mingle yellow and ultramarine-blue so as to produce white, 
a high degree of illumination being employed ; will they 
still produce white if they are both correspondingly dark- 
ened? We might very naturally suppose that the blue 
would not outweigh the yellow, and that instead of white 
we should obtain bluish-white. This was, however, found 
by Helmholtz, using pure spectral colours, not to be the 
case : the darkened mixture of yellow and blue stUl exactly 
resembled sunlight which was correspondingly darkened. 
The same result was also obtained when a mixture of an- 
other pair of complementary colours, greenish-yellow and 
violet, was used. These results apparently contradict the 
statement that yellow or greenish-yellow acts more power- 


fully on the eye when bright than blue or violet. Helm- 
holtz accounts for it in this way : Our standard for bright 
white is bright sunlight ; we cause the mixture of yellow 
and blue to match this sunlight, and then call it white ; we 
then darken our sunlight very much, and make it our 
standard for a feeble white having a small degree of lumi- 
nosity ; we call it darkened white or pure grey, and find 
that our darkened mixture of blue and yellow still matches 
it perfectly. But, according to Helmholtz, this pure grey 
is really somewhat bluish, and it is owing to this circum- 
stance that it is able still to match the darkened yellow and 
blue, which is also really bluish. Pure grey has always ap- 
peared to the present writer as somewhat bluish compared 
with pure white, and the following experiment tends to 
show that this is indeed the case : A pure grey was gen- 
erated on a rotating disk by mixing fifty parts of white 

Fig. 78.— Small White-and-BIack Disk arranged so as to make a Grey by rotation. This 
grey looks more blaiBh than the larger white disk ; n per cent, of an indigo disk la 
then mixed with the white. 

with a like proportion of black. This compound disk was 
placed on the same axis with a white disk, but when set in 
rotation the grey portion appeared slightly more bluish 
than the white. In order to cause the white disk to match 
in hue (not in luminosity) the grey disk, a disk painted 
with a tolerably deep wash of indigo was combined with 
the white disk, as indicated in Fig. 78. An assistant ar- 
ranged the disks and made the measurements, while the 


author simply ordered the proportion of blue to be in- 
creased or diminished till the result seemed satisfactory ; 
at the termination of the experiment he was informed of 
the result. The amounts of added blue in nine consecutive 
experiments were as follows, in percentages : 17, 20, 18, 16, 
13, 14, 21, 19, 16 ; average, 17. According, then, to these 
experiments, it was necessary to add to white 17 per cent, 
of a strong tint of indigo, in order to cause it to match in 
hue a grey disk made up of equal parts of white and black. 
It may be remarked in this connection that the addition of 
the blue to the white, although slightly changing its tint, 
produced no particularly noticeable effect on its luminosity ; 
that is, it was only a little darkened.. 

All these phenomena can be explained by the theory of 
Young as modified by Helmholtz. According to this the- 
ory, the sensation of white is produced when the red, 
green, and violet nerves of the retina are stimulated to 
about the same degree of activity ; furthermore, with a fee- 
ble degree of stimulation of all three sets of nerves, the 
activity of the violet nerves predominates over that of the 
green, and that of the green again over that of the red. 
"When the stimulation is made powerful, these conditions 
are reversed, the red nerves leading, the green and violet 
following. These relations of nerve-action are indicated 
by three curves in Fig. 79. The horizontal line represents 
increase of actual intensity of white light ; thus the portion 
AB stands for feeble white light, A C for white light which 
is twice as strong, etc. The vertical line B R measures the 
intensity of the red sensation produced by this feeble white 
light ; B G and B V give the strength of the sensations in 
the case of the green and violet nerves. We see that the 
violet sensation, as it is represented by the longest line, 
prevails over the others, and that the light, instead of ap- 
pearing white, will be such as would be produced by mix- 
ing equal parts of. the sensations red, green, and violet ; 
i. e., by mixing the sensation of white with a little green 


and a little more violet. Now, as we have previously seen 
in Chapter IX., the sensations of green and violet when 
mixed produce that of blue, so that on the whole we have a 
mixture of the sensation of pure white with blue, i. e., blu- 
ish-white. If we examine in the same way the line D V G R, 
we shall find the conditions reversed ; here we have the 
sensation of pure white mixed with a slight excess of that 
of green, and again with a little more of red ; as green and 

FiQ. 79.— Three Curves showing the action of the Eed, Green, and Violet Nerves when 
stimulated by White Light of different degrees of Brightness. 

red when mixed furnish yellow, our result now will be 
white mixed with yellow, or yellowish-white. This same 
diagram also represents in a symbolic manner the fact that 
red surfaces are most luminous by bright light, and violet 
surfaces by feeble light. It can also be used to explain 
the changes which pure colour undergoes when made very 
bright or very pale, after the manner employed in the early 
part of the present chapter. 

We have examined now with some detail the relative 
changes in luminosity which coloured surfaces undergo 
when exposed to bright and feeble illuminations ; but, be- 
fore leaving this part of our subject, it may not be amiss to 
mention the fact that all comparisons between the luminosi- 
ties of differently coloured surfaces are quite valueless as 
the expression of objective facts. An illustration will make 


this clear. Suppose we compare together by the eye two 
white surfaces or two red surfaces, and find that they ap- 
pear to us equally luminous ; now, this will he not only a 
fact as far as the eye is concerned, hut it wUl he an objec- 
tive fact in nature ; it wiU be equally true in a mechanical 
sense, and on, converting our two masses of white light or 
red light into heat, we shall obtain equal amounts of heat, 
tf, however, we take two differently coloured surfaces, red 
and blue for example, and make them equally luminous, 
equally powerful so far as the eye is concerned, and then 
convert the light they reflect into heat, a delicate thermo- " 
metric apparatus will speedily inform us that we are not 
dealing in the two cases with equal amounts of force. In 
fact, the maximum heating effect was found by Melloni to 
be produced by the ultra-red rays which are quite invisible 
to the eye ; here, from an objective point of view, resides 
the greatest force, but the waves are too long to affect the 
eye at all. From this it is evident that the intensity of our 
visual sensations depends not only on the strength (height 
or amplitude) of the waves of light, but also on then- 
length ; the maximum effects being produced by yellow 
light, which affects simultaneously the red and green nerves. 
In spite of the fact that photometric comparisons of differ- 
ently coloured surfaces have no objective value, still for our 
purposes they may often be quite precious, or even actually 
indispensable, if we propose to give our work a quantitative 

Having now considered the changes which colour under- 
goes when made very luminous or very feeble, we proceed 
to study the effects produced by mingling white with it. 
The general result can be expressed quite concisely : the 
colour becomes paler, and when the proportion of white is 
made large entirely disappears, leaving recognizable only a 
white surface. When a disk painted as in Fig. 80 is ro- 
tated, the red by mixture with the white gives a ring of 
pale red, like that indicated in Fig. 81. Upon reducing the 


amount of the colour, it becomes very whitish and pale ; 
and Aubert found that the red when mixed with from 120 
to 18,0 parts of white entirely disappeared. If we set the 
luminosity of vermilion as one fourth of that of white paper, 
it follows from Auhert's experiment that mixing vermilion 

Fia. 80.— White Disk partially Fig. 81.— Indicates (he sppear- 

palnted Eed with Vermilion. ance presented by the previ- 

ouB disk when set in rapid 
rotation so as to mix the red 
and white hght. 

with 720 parts of white light, having a brightness equal to 
its own, causes the red colour to disappear. Or we may 
express the fact thus : Take red light and white light of 
equal intensities ; then, if one part of red light be presented 
to the eye simultaneously with 720 parts of white light, the 
eye will be unable to recognize the presence of the red con- 
stituent. Smaller quantities of white light produce very 
great changes in the appearance of the colour. _ If we rotate 
a disk like that indicated in Fig. ISf, we shall be surprised 
to find that, though one quarter of the disk is covered with 
vermilion, yet the resultant red tint is quite pale. In this 
case twelve parts of white light are mixed with one part of 
equally bright red light, and when stated in this manner 
the result seems more natural. 

When we undertake to study more carefully the mix- 
tures of white with coloured light, certain curious anoma- 
lies present themselves. If we arrange disks of artificial 
ultramarine-blue and white, in the way shown in Fig. 82, 


and set tliem in rapid rotation, we shall find that the addi- 
tion of white, instead of producing merely a paler blue, 


( ULTRA \ 

Fig. 82.— White Cardboard Disk Fio. 83.— Indicates the appear- 

partially painted with Ultra- ance produced by mixing white 

marine-blue (artificial). with ultramai'ine-blue light. 

actually changes the colour to a pale violet. (See Fig. 83.) 
If we substitute orange for the ultramarine-blue, the pale- 
orange hue generated by rotation shows a tendency toward 
red. These two facts have been known for a long time, 
and various explanations of them have been proposed. 
According to Briicke, ordinary white daylight is itself 
slightly reddish in tint, and, when we mix white light with 
coloured light, we really add at the same time a little red ; 
hence these changes. Aubert, on the other hand, following 
a suggestion of Helmholtz, supposes that the true pale shade 
of ultramarine-blue is actually violet, but that oui- judg- 
ment is perverted by experience drawn from the colour of 
the sky, which according to him is a greenish-blue, and re- 
tains this tint when mixed with white. This is an explana- 
tion which artists would hardly accept, and the experi- 
ments given below show that both it and the one previously 
cited are insufficient. In an examination of this matter it 
was found by the author that changes of this kind are not 
confined to the colours orange and artificial ultramarine- 
blue, but extend over all the colours except violet and its 
complement greenish-yellow ; the main results are given in 
the following table : 


Table • II. — Showing the Effects op mixing White with Coloured 


Name of Colour. Effect of adding White. 

Vermilion. , More purplish. 

Orange More red. 

Chrome-yellow More orange-yellow. 

Pure yellow More orange-yellow. 

Greenish-yellow Paler (unchanged). 

Green More blue-green. 

Emerald-green More blae-green. 

Cyan-blue More bluish. 

Cobalt-blue A little more violet. 

Ultramarine (artificial) More violet. 

Violet Unchanged. 

Purple. Less red, more violet. 

It follows from these experiments that, when we mix white 
with coloured light, the effect produced is the same as 
though we at the same time mixed with our white light 
a small quantity of violet light. Such mixture would ac- 
count for all the changes given in the table, as could be 
shown by reference to the colour-diagram explained in the 
next chapter. This, of course, is only stating the facts in 
different language, and is not an explanation. 

In the experiments just mentioned the light from bril- 
liantly coloured disks was mixed by rotation with from 5 
to 50 per cent, of white light, some of the disks requiring a 
larger admixture of white light than others to produce the 
changes in hue recorded in the table. If now we first 
darken our colours very much, and then add a little white 
to them, the results will again be somewhat different from 
those given in the table, because here two causes are at 
work, which sometimes produce opposite results, as we can 
see by a comparison of Tables I. and II. In the next set of 
experiments, in every case except that of chrome-yellow, 5 
parts of the coloured disk were combined with 90 parts of 
pure black and 5 parts of white ; 10 parts of chrome-yel- 


low were combined with 85 parts of pure black and 5 of 
white. The changes of hue are given below : 

Table III. — Showing the Effect of making Coloub very Dark and add- 
ing TO IT A SMALL PORTION OF White. (The experiments were made by 
rotating disks.) 

Vermilion became a Dull greyish-purple. 

Orange became a Brown (slightly bluish). 

Chrome-yellow became a Greyish olive-green. 

Emerald-green became a Dark green (less bluish). 

Cyan-blue became a Dark greenish-grey. 

Prussian-blue became a Dark grey-blue. 

Cobalt-blue became a Dark grey-blue. 

Ultramarine (artificial) became a Dark grey violet-blue. 

Violet became a Dark grey-violet. 

Purple became a Dark grey-violet (less red). 

In many of these cases the results are similar in charac- 
ter to those given in Table 11. This, however, is not the 
case with chrome-yellow, as in one case it was made to 
appear more orange, while in the other it became a whitish 
olive-green. It is evident that in this instance the effect of 
darkening the colour overbalanced that of adding white to 
it. With emerald-green and cyan-blue a similar result 
seems to have been reached, though the phenomena were 
less decided. The general effect, then, of jSrst reducing 
greatly the luminosity of colour and then adding small 
amounts of white, is the production of greys which have a 
tendency toward blue or violet, this being the case even 
when the original colour is as decided as that of vermilion. 
The experiments given in the last two tables will account 
for the fact that it is almost impossible to produce a fine 
red with the aid of polarized light, the tint being always 
rather of a rose-colour, that is, showing a tendency toward 
a purplish hue. 

It has been shown in the preceding pages that the effect 
of mixing white with coloured light is to cause the colour 
to become paler, and at the same time to change it slightly, 


as though simultaneously a small amount of violet light 
had been added to the mixture. This fact naturally sug- 
gests an experiment like the following : Suppose we com- 
bine a purple and a green disk as indicated in Fig. 84, 
employing equal parts, and thus obtain a pure grey. Let 

Fift. 84. — Purple and Green Disk ; 
when rotated, it makee a Pure 

Fig. 8S.— Purple, Green, and White 
Disk : when rotated, it makes a 
Pure Grey. 

US now replace 10 parts of purple by white, also 10 parts of 
the green by white (Pig. 85) : will we then still obtain a 
pure grey, or will the grey be tinged with violet ? Several 
experiments of this kind have been accurately made by the 
author, but in every case the result was the production of a 
grey identical with that given by mixing by I'otation black 
and white. The explanation would seem to be that the 
green and purple instantly combine to produce the sensa- 
tion of grey, and then of course adding white to this grey 
can only make it paler, but can not at all alter its tint. It 
would seem from this that, when a colour is altered in the 
manner above described by admixture with white, time 
comes in as a necessary element in the process ; the mixture 
of white and coloured light must be allowed to act on the 
eye undisturbed during an interval of time which is not too 
short, otherwise these peculiar effects will not be produced. 

One might suppose that the same result would be pro- 
duced by spreading thin washes of coloured pigments on 


white paper that is obtained hj mixing white with coloured 
pigments by the method of revolving disks. The tint ia 
these two cases, however, is usually somewhat different. 
A pale wash of carmine, for example, was allowed to dry 
on white paper, and an effort was made to imitate it by 
combining a deep-coloured carmine disk with one of white 
cardboard by the method of rotation. It was soon ascer- 
tained that the hue of the water-colour wash was consider- 
ably more saturated or intense than a tint of equal luminos- 
ity produced by the rotating disks ; it was also found to 
be more of a pm'plish hue. When the luminosities in the 
two cases were made equal, the water-colour wash showed 
far more colour than did the simple mixture of the red and 
white light. Treated in the same way, a thin wash of ver- 
milion was more orange in hue than a mixture of vermilion- 
coloured light with white light ; a thin wash of gamboge 
looked yellow, while the mixture by rotation had more of 
an orange-yellow appearance. The reason of these changes 
is quite evident, and lies in the well-known fact that thin 
layers of coloured substances have in general a different 
absorptive action on white light from thicker layers of the 
same substances. A thin layer of vermilion allows, for ex- 
ample, more of the orange rays to pass ; hence in very thin 
layers this pigment is sometimes used by artists to represent 
very pale tints of orange, or even of orange-yellow. The 
other fact above mentioned, viz., that thin layers are often 
relatively more saturated than those that are thick, is to be 
explained in a different way. It was shown in Chapter X. 
that, when a pigment is mixed with one of a different col- 
our, not only is the hue changed, but an effect is produced 
as though at the same time some black had been added to 
the mixture. It now appears that, even when a pigment is 
made darker by mixing with it a larger quantity of itself, 
a similar change is to some extent produced, the darker 
wash of the pure pigment acting as though some black were 
mingled with it. In the experiment with the pale wash of 


carmine it was actually found necessary to combine black 
by rotation with the water-colour wash, so as to reduce it, 
before it could be matched by a disk composed of white 
and a deep tint of carmine. 

The fact now under consideration can perhaps be ren- 
dered more intelligible by a different statement. Carmine, 
as we know, absorbs powerfully nearly all the coloured rays 
of light except the red ; these latter it reflects in considera- 
ble quantity, and to this circumstance its red colour is due. 
But the experiments just mentioned indicate that it absorbs 
also to a considerable extent eyen the red rays, so that a 
deep wash of carmine sends to the eye less red light than 
we should expect. The author found that yellow glass pre- 
sented a parallel case. Yellow glass transmits the orange- 
yellow, yellow, and greenish-yellow rays abundantly, and 
to this power mainly its yellow colour is due. But it does 
not transmit even these rays at all as perfectly as ordinary 
window-glass. In one experiment it was found that a plate 
of yellow glass absorbed about 25 per cent, even of these 
rays. Most coloured substances, pigments, and glasses 
probably act in a similar way. 



Among different forms of fireworks none excite more 
admiration than revolving wheels of fire with their brilliant 
colom-s, ruhy, emerald, or sapphire, and their wonderfully 
blended surfaces, which so often suggest fanciful resem- 
blances to roses, carnations, and other flowers. It is quite 
possible to arrange matters so as to obtain an instantaneous 
view of one of these fiery objects, without at all interfering 
with its rapid movement ; and when this isdone, it, is seen 
that much of its beauty depends upon an illusion : the 
broad, variegated, shaded surface vanishes, and we have 
before us simply a few jets of coloured fire, in no wise par- 
ticularly remarkable. The appearance of these brilliant 
objects depends, then, upon an illusion, and this has for its 
foundation the fact that the sensation of sight is always 
prolonged after the light producing it has ceased to act on 
the eye. 

The most familiar illustration of this fact we find in an 
old experiment, which no doubt was the parent of our re- 
volving fireworks : If a lighted coal on the end of a stick 
is caused to revolve rapidly, it describes a ring of fire which 
is plainly seen at night to be quite unbroken. The light 
from the moving coal falls upon the retina of the eye, and 
an image of it is produced, let us say at the point 1, Fig. 
86 ; an instant afterward, owing to its having moved into a 
new position, the image will be found at 2 and then at 3, 


and so on all the way around the circle. Now, if the sen- 
sation due to the first image lasts while the circle is being 
traversed, then it wUl be renewed before it has a chance to 
fade out, and consequently will be present continuously ; 
the same will be true of all other points on the circle, which 
consequently will produce on the beholder the appearance 
of an unbroken ring of light. In order to produce this 
condition of things, it is necessary of course that the coal 
of fire should move with a certain velocity ; according to 

Fio. 86. — Appearance of a Coal of lire in Three Positions. 

the observations of D'Arcy, it is essential that it should 
traverse its circular path completely in thirteen hundredths 
of a second. 

It is very easy to experiment on matters like these with 
the aid of revolving disks. If we take a circular disk 
which is painted black, and has on it a white spot like that 
represented in Fig. 87, and set it in rotation, as soon as the 
motion is quick enough we shall see a ring of white, just as 
in the previous case we obtained a ring of fire. Fig. 88 
shows the appearance of the disk when in rapid rotation. 


The duration of the sensation of light, or duration of the 
impression on the retina, as it is called, varies with the in- 
tensity of the light producing it, and in the case of our 
white paper is not by any means so great as with the coal 
of fire. According to an experiment of Helmholtz, the im- 
pression on the retina lasts in this case, with undiminished 
strength, about one forty-eighth of a second ; hence it is 
necessary for the disk to revolve forty-eight times in a sec- 
ond in order to produce the appearance of a steady; uniform 
ring of light. While, as just stated, the impression lasts 
with undimiaished strength for one forty-eighth of a sec- 
ond, its total duration with decreasing strength is much 
greater, being perhaps as high as one third of a second, 
though this interval varies somewhat with the circum- 
stances, and is a little difficult of determination. 

Fie. 87.— Disk with White Sector. Fig. 88.— Disk" of Fig. 87 in Eapld 


It is not, however, to be supposed that, in the experi- 
ment indicated in Fig. 88, the ring of white light will have 
the same degree of luminosity as its source, viz., the slip of 
white paper pasted on the black disk ; on the contrary, the 
luminosity of the ring will be much feebler than that of the 
spot. The reason of this is quite evident : we have virtu- 
ally spread out the light of the spot over a much larger 
surface, and it will be proportionately weaker ; if the sur- 
face of the ring is one hundred times as great as that of 
the spot, then the luminosity of the ring will be exactly one 
hundredth of that of the spot. That this relation is always 


strictly quantitative can be proved by a photometric ar- 
rangement like that used by Plateau for this purpose, or by 
the aid of a crystal of calc spar vrhich divides ordinary light 
up into two beams of equal intensity. In this latter case 
we arrange a disk by making half of its surface white, the 
other half black, as represented in Fig. 89 ; alongside of it, 
on a black ground, we place a strip of the same white pa- 
. per ; the disk is then set in rotation, and assumes a grey 
appearance. With the aid of the cale-spar prism we then 
view the strip of paper, which will appear doubled, as shown 
in Fig. 90, each image having one half the brightness of the 

Fis. 89,— Arrangement ot Disk and 
strip for Photometric Comparison. 

Fig. 90. — Appearance of Disk In Bots- 
tlon, the Strip being viewed through 
a Calc-Spar Prism. 

original strip ; but either of these images will be as bright 
as the grey disk, showing that the luminosity of the grey 
disk is just one half of that of the white. This gives an 
idea of the method of proceeding, but numerous corrections 
must be introduced, some of which will no doubt suggest 
themselves to the ingenious reader ; of them we will men- 
tion only one, viz. : that, according to the recent investiga- 
tions of Wild, the two images furnished by calc spar do not 
really have exactly the same luminosity, but differ by about 
three per cent.* Dove has proved that the relation we 
have been speaking of above also holds good for coloured 

* Poggendorff's " Annalen," vol. cxviii., p. 225. 


light. This fact is of much importance to us, for on it is 
hased the principle involved in Maxwell's disks, which we 
have already found so indispensable in quantitative investi- 
gations on colour. 

The duration of the impression on the retina in the case 
of light of different colours has not yet been studied care- 
fully. Some experiments were made by Plateau with pa- 
pers coloured by gamboge, carmine, and Prussian-blue, and 
it was ascertained that in these cases the duration differed 
somewhat. Dr. Wolcott Gibbs suggested to the author a 
method which would probably solve this problem in a satis- 
factory manner, and which is about as f oUows : "With the 
aid of a spectroscope a diffraction spectrum is to be pre- 
sented to the eye in the form of a series of contiguous col- 
oured bands, this division into bands being effected by a 
suitable diaphragm placed in the eyepiece of the instru- 
ment. In front of the slit of the spectroscope a revolving 
disk with one or more openings should allow the light to 
enter the instrument ; and, by regulating carefully the ve- 
locity of rotation, it would be possible to seize the exact 
moment when one or more of the coloured bands ceased to 
flicker, and presented a steady, uniform appearance. This 
observation would give correctly the interval during which 
the impression remained with undiminished strength on the 
eye, in the case of the selected colour. 

If quite bright light like that from a window is present- 
ed to the eye, the impression lasts several seconds — of course 
with diminishing strength. The experiment is easily made, 
and the observer will find, after the eyes have been closed, 
that there is time enough to recognize a good many details 
before the disappearance of the image. With intensely 
bright light like that of the sun, the image lasts several 
minutes, and finally fades out after having undergone a se- 
ries of complicated changes in colour. It may perhaps be 
as well to mention here a fact which must be borne in mind 
•when we undertake to study the after-sensations that follow 


the action of -white or coloured light on the eye. If the 
light be allowed to act for a short time on the eye, when it 
vanishes, as before stated, the sensation remains for a frac- 
tion of a second, this after-sensation being in all respects 
identical with the original sensation, except that it gradual- 
ly becomes weaker and weaker : thus, if the original sensa- 
tion is red, the after-sensation will entirely correspond to 
this colour. This after-image, which is the only one thus 
far treated of in this chapter, is called the positive image. 
After a little while, however, the positive image vanishes, 
and is replaced by an image of a different character, which 
is known as the negative image : thus, if the light original- 
ly acting on the eye was red, the negative image is coloured 
greenish-blue, or has the complementary colour. These 
negative images are quite important, as many matters con- 
nected with contrast depend on them, and they wUl be con- 
sidered at length in Chapter XV. 

We have seen that the positive after-images are useful 
in furnishing us, in the case of revolving disks, with a mode 
of mixing together masses of coloured light in definite pro- 
portions ; and it may be well to mention some other cases 
where these images play an important part. The appear- 
ances presented by water in motion depend largely on them. 
Thus, if we study the ocean waves under direct sunlight, we 
shall find that much of their character depends on elongated 
streaks of light, which serve to interpret not only the forms 
of the larger masses of water, but also the shapes of the 
minor wavelets with which these are sculptured. If now 
we examine these bright streaks, so well known to artists, 
with a slowly revolving disk having one open sector, we 
shall find that in point of fact there are no streaks at all 
present, but simply round images of the sun, which, owing 
to their motion, become thus elongated. Instantaneous 
photographs give the same true result, and hence appear 
false. An analogous action takes place even in cloudy 
weather, and streaks of light are produced which give the 


waves a different appearance from -what they -would have if 
suddenly made solid, while yet retaining all their glassy 
appearance. Again, for the same reason, waves breaking 
on a heach appear to us different from their instantaneous 
photographs : when viewing the real waves we obtain an 
impression which is made up of the different views rapidly 
presented during several minute intervals of time, whereas 
the photograph gives us only -what takes place during one 
of these small intervals. All this applies also more or less 
to the case of falling water, as fountains or waterfalls, and 
explains the transparency of rapidly revolving wheels. 
Owing to the same cause, the limbs of animals in swift 
motion are only visible in a periodic way, or at those mo- 
ments when their motion is being reversed ; during the rest 
of the time they are practically invisible. These moments 
of comparative rest are seized by artists for delineation, 
whUe the less discriminating photograph is as apt to repro- 
duce intermediate positions, and thus produce an effect 
which, even if quite faithful, still appears absurd.* 

* For a complete list of what has been published on this whole subject, 
see a memoir by J. Plateau published by the Belgian Academy of Sciences 
in Win. 



As we have seen in the previous chapters, the variety of 
colours presented to us by nature and art is enormous, rang- 
ing from the pure brilliant colours of the spectrum down to 
the dull, pale tints of rocks and earth, and including whole 
classes which seem at first glance to have but little affinity 
with each other. It would be difficult, for example, to find 
anything in the prismatic spectrum which reminds us in the 
least of the colour brown ; the various pale tints which 
wood assumes when worked seem quite unrelated to the 
spectral hues ; and it is the same with the vast multitude 
of greys with which we are acquainted, and which so large- 
ly constitute the colours of natural scenery. If, instead of 
comparing with the colours of the spectrum the strange, 
wonderful, indescribable tints which nature so abundantly 
displays, we descend a step and think of them in connection 
with the hues furnished by our brightest pigments, such as 
vermilion, red lead, chrome-yellow, emerald-green, or ultra- 
marine-blue, we scarcely improve the matter : even such 
colours as these seem to have no affinities with the modest 
throng of greys and browns ; they appear to belong to a 
more princely caste, and utterly refuse to mingle on equal 
terms with the humbler multitude. 

The colour of vermilion depends, as we learned some 
time ago, on three things : first, on the quantity of coloured 
light which it sends to the eye, or on the brightness of the 


coloured light that it reflects ; second, on the wave-length 
of this red light ; and third, on the amount of white light 
which is mingled with the red. Its colour depends, then, 
on its luminosity, wave-length, and purity ; these quanti- 
ties, as we have seen, are called the constants of colour.* 
In certain cases we can easily alter these constants consider- 
ably, and thus ascertain their significance with regard to 
colour. Let us take a circular disk painted with pure ver- 
milion, and undertake to reduce its luminosity. This could 
be very efficiently accomplished by removing the disk to a 
darkened room, when it would be found that the colour was 
changed to dark red, or even to black. There is, however, 
an objection to this mode of experimenting : we have al- 
ways, under such circumstances, a strong tendency not sim- 
ply to receive the tint that is actually presented to us, but 
to make, unconsciously, an allowance for the degree of il- 
lumination under which we view it. We know that red in 
a darkened room presents a certain appearance ; when we 
see this appearance in the darkened room, we say we see 
dark red ; to the same appearance in a light room we would 
give a different name. This objection applies to all experi- 
ments of this character, whether the object be to expose a 
surface to a very small or to a very great illumination : we 
ourselves should, as it were, always be immersed in a medi- 
um illumination, so as to retain an undisturbed judgment. 
In the present case this difficulty is easUy avoided. We 
take our vermilion disk to a room illuminated with ordinary 
daylight, and reduce its luminosity by combining it with a 
black disk, as indicated in Fig. 91. When the compound 
black and red disk is set into rapid rotation, we in effect 
spread out over the whole surface of the disk the small 
amount of red light which is reflected from the exposed red 
sector ; its luminosity can thus be reduced to any desii-able 
extent. It will be found, when we combine 10 parts of 

* See Chapter III. 


vermilion with 90 of black in this way, that the red colour 
is converted into a chocolate-brown that bears no close re- 
semblance to the original hue. It can be objected to this 
mode of darkening colours that there may be in the black 
disk something that exercises a peculiar effect on the result. 
If, however, we analyze the faint light which comes from 

Fra. 91. — Disk with 10 Parts Vermilion and 90 Parts Black : gives by rotation a dark- 
reddish chocolate-brown. 

the black disk with the aid of a prism, we shall find that it 
is essentially white, all the prismatic colours being present. 
Or we may expose our black disk to sunlight, analyze its 
light with the prism, and compare this analysis with that 
obtained from a piece of white paper not exposed to sun- 
light and shaded from the diffuse daylight. When by this 
proceeding the luminosities of the black and white papers 
have been equalized, it will be found that the colours which 
they furnish to the prism differ very little. The fact that 
the black disk darkens the red one as it would be darkened 
by a dark room can also be proved in another way : If we 
first darken a room just as much as we please, and then 
contrive an aperture opening into it a little larger than our 
red disk, and arrange matters so that not much light enters 
the room thi-ough this aperture, then we can virtually mix 
the darkness of this room with the red light of our disk. 
We simply place a red sector on the rotation machine ar- 
ranged in front of the opening into the dark room, as indi- 
cated in Fig. 92, and set the coloured sector into rapid 



rotation. We now have the red light of a small portion of 
the red disk spread out over the darkness due to the dark- 
ened room, and the result is the same : we have the same 
chocolate-hrown (Fig. 93). The use of the black disk being 
thus justified, we may employ it further in our investiga- 
tion ; and we shall find that by simply reducing the red 

light of our vermilion disk 
with its aid, we produce not 
only a series of dark, dull 
reds, but a number of rich, 
peculiar-looking browns. 
When we make a corre- 
sponding set of experiments 

Tia. 92.— Eed Sector arranged with Dark 
Koom as a Background. 

Fig. 93. — Shows the appear- 
ance presented -when the 
sector of Fig. 92 is made to 
rotate rapidly. 

with our red-lead disk, we obtain a series of reddish, warm- 
looking browns ; the chrome-yellow disk gives a set of 
strange-looking, dull yellows and dark olive-greens ; the 
green and blue disks furnish sets of dark green and blue 
tones. Experiments like these show what changes are pro- 
duced simply by reducing the intensity of the coloured 
light, without in any other way tampering with it. 

By a corresponding set of experiments we can study the 
effects of mixing white light with our coloured light : we 
need only combine the coloured disk with one that is white, 
and rapid rotation gives us the desired result. In this way 


we can produce a series of pale tints that are reddish, green- 
ish, or bluish, according to the disk employed. 

Thus, either by reducing the luminosity of our'coloured 
light or by mixing it with more or less white, a great num- 
ber of tints can be produced ; but we soon find that to 
match many natural colours it is necessary to employ both 
these proceedings simultaneously. By combining with our 
coloured disk a black and a white disk, we then become 
able to imitate a far greater number of the pale, indescriba- 
ble tints of natural objects. To make our power more 
complete, we ought also to be able at will to alter the wave- 
length of the light reflected from the coloured disk.* There 
are, however, practical difSculties which prevent us from 
making these changes in a definite and perfect manner, and 
we find ourselves finally driven to abandon our very conve- 
nient and instructive disks, and to turn for help to the col- 
ours of the solar spectrum. These colours are pure in the 
sense of being free from any admixture of white light, their 
luminosity can be varied to any extent, and the lengths of 
the various waves which generate them have been measured 
with a high degree of accuracy ; we also can mix white 
light with them at our pleasure. With the colours of the 
spectrum, and a purple formed by mixing the red and violet 
of the spectrum, we can match any colour whatsoever, pro- 
vided we are allowed to increase or diminish the luminosity 
of our spectral hues, and to add the necessary amount of 
white light. This fact furnishes us with a clue toward a 
classification of colours. The series red, orange, yellow, 
green, blue, violet, and purple is one which returns on it- 
self, and hence can be arranged in the form of a circle, as 
was first done by Newton. In making a colour-chart we 
can place the complementary colours opposite each other, 
and white in the middle ; the pure colours of the specti-um 
will be situated on the circumference of the circle, and the 

* For an account of the effects produced by alteration of wave-length, 
see Chapter III. 


mixtures of these with white will lie nearer the centre, as is 
roughly indicated in Fig. 94. A chart of this kind will 
contain all colours that are possible under a given degree of 
illumination, arranged in an orderly manner. In the sector 
devoted to the reds we shall find along the circumference 
every kind of pure red, from purple-red to orange-red, and, 
as we advance inward toward the centre of the circle, a 
great number of tints produced by mixing these various 
reds with increasing quantities of white. It is the same 

Fig. 94.— The colours of the spectrum are supposed to be on the circumference of the 
circle, and the mixtures of these with increasing qaantities of white are in the inte- 
rior. White is at the centre. (The spaces for most of the pale or greyish tints are 
left blank, for want of room.) 

with all the other pure colours : every possible hue and 
tint belonging to the adopted grade of illumination wiU be 
found somewhere within the circle ; all the manifold greens 
and blues, also the whole range of purples, from purplish- 
red to purplish-violet— all will be represented. At the 
start, one of our conditions was that complementary col- 
ours should be opposite each other ; hence we must give to 
our blue not only the right hue, but a luminosity such that 
it is able exactly to neutralize the yellow which is opposite 
to it. These two colours must also have a luminosity such 


that, when they are mixed, the mixture will furnish a white 
which is twice as bright as that at the centre of the circle. 
The same must be true of all the other pairs of complemen- 
tary colours, whether situated on the circumference or in 
the interior of the circle. This mode of operating gives us 
a chart in which all the colours of corresponding intensity 
are well arranged with regard to each other, and it enables 
us at a glance to see some of the relations of the colours to 
each other.* 

In the construction of this colour-chart we imagined the 
brilliant colours of the spectrum to be situated on the cir- 
cumference of the circle, and as we advanced toward the 
centre a larger and larger proportion of white light was to 
be mixed with them. Suppose now we diminish somewhat 
the luminosity of our spectral colours ; this will change 
every tint in the chart correspondingly, and also the central 
white ; all will be darkened proportionately ; we shall ob- 
tain a new colour-chart, having less luminosity, but in other 
respects closely resembling the first. With a further re- 
duction of the light a corresponding result will again be 
reached ; and, as we continue the process, we go on accumu- 
lating new colour-charts, each being darker than the last. 
Our two limits evidently are the brilliant colours of the 
spectrum on the one hand and total blackness on the other ; 
between these we shall be able to place a series of several 
hundred colour-charts, differing perceptibly in luminosity, 
but in other respects resembling the original type as nearly 
as may be. 

If we arrange this whole series of charts one above the 
other in proper order, the most luminous one, or that with 
which we started, being placed at the top, we shall obtain a 
cylinder which will contain within itself an immense series 
of colours. The axis of the cylinder at the top will be 

* In this case we consider colours equally intense which, when mixed, 
neutralize each other and produce the same white. The luminosity of such 
colours, measured by the eye, will often be quite different. 



white, and as we descend it will pass through a gi-eat series 
of darkening greys, finally to end in black. If we make a 
vertical section of the cylinder, its appearance then will be 
of the nature roughly indicated in Fig. 95, the axis darken- 
ing as we descend, also the charts. Now, we know it to be 
a fact that, as coloured surfaces are more and more feebly 
illuminated, so does the number of tints which we can dis- 

Fio. 95.— Section of a Pile of Colour- 
Charts, the most luminous ones be- 
ing at the top. 

Fig. 96. — Section of a Colour-Cone. 

tinguish on them constantly decrease. Hence, in the case 
of our cylindrical pile of charts, smaller surfaces will an- 
swer equally weU for the display of the darker tints, and 
we may as well reduce our cylinder to a cone, as indicated 
in Fig. 96. This colour-cone is analogous to the colour- 
pyramid which was described by Lambert in- 1772. 

It will be remembered that we began our colour-chart 
with the colours of the spectrum, and these colours, along 
with their mixtures with white, constituted the base of our 
cone. The colours of the spectrum in this case were sup- 
posed to have only a moderate degree of brightness, such 
as would be suitable for prolonged observation. These are 
the brightest colours thus far contained in our cone, but 


they are by no means the brightest colours that we are able 
to see ; above them occur a great series of hues which we 
can more or less perfectly distinguish. As our ability to 
discriminate very luminous colours diminishes as their lumi- 
nosity increases, the colour-charts devoted to this new set 
may be treated like those used for the darker colours. In 
this way we once more obtain a second cone, which will be 
placed over the one before described. At the apex of this 
last cone we have the brightest white which the eye is 
capable of perceiving ; a little below and around it are sit- 
uated a series of very luminous spectral colours and a pur- 
ple, all being so bright as to differ, so far as the eye is 
concerned, not much from a brilliant white ; farther down 
on the sides of the cone are still quite bright colours, and 
in its interior their mixtures with white. In this double 
cone, then, we are at last able to include all the colours 
which under any circumstances we are able to perceive ; 
they are arranged in an orderly manner, which at once ex- 
hibits their hues and luminosities, and the amount of white 
light that has been mixed with them. They are arranged 
throughout in complementary pairs, and some of their other 
relations to each other are plainly exhibited. 

Now, a word with regard to the possibility of executing 
this colour-cylinder or the double cone. In the first place, 
we have no pigments with which we can at all properly rep- 
resent the colours of the spectrum even when their luminos- 
ity is quite moderate ; our best pigments all reflect more or 
less white light mixed with their coloured light. If with their 
aid we undertook to construct a colour-chart, we should not 
only be obliged to descend in the cone, Fig. 96, a good dis- 
tance toward its black apex, but besides this our chart 
would be smaller than the section of the cone at that point, 
owing to the presence of the foreign white light reflected 
by the pigments. It would be next to impossible to pre- 
pare pigments of different colours suitable even for the pro- 
duction of a single chart of the series ; for it would be ne- 


cessary that they should be right in the matter of hue, 
luminosity, and greater or less freedom from white light. 

There are still other objections to the system as just 
proposed. It furnishes us with no means of giving the col- 
ours a proper or rational distribution on the circumference 
of the circle ; we do not know whether the yellow is to be 
placed 90° from the red or at some other distance ; the 
same is true with regard to the angular distribution of all 
the other colours ; the system gives us no information on 
this point. It also gives us no information about the effects 
that are produced by mixing together colours that are not 

There is another mode of attacking this problem which 
has been much used of late, and which offers certain advan- 
tages to the student of colour. Let us suppose that we 
place red of a certain luminosity at R, and green of the 
same luminosity at G, Fig. 97 ; then along the line R G 
we can arrange, or imagine to be arranged, all possible 
mixtures of these two colours. To do this we imagine that 
R and G have certain weights corresponding to their lumi- 
nosities (or to the quantities of them which in a particular 
case we employ), and then proceed as if we had before us 

Ftg. 97.— Alonff the line E G we can arrange Fig. 98 —A mixture of equal parts 

all the mixtures of red and green. The of red and green AimiBUeB a yel- 

diagram represents the case where equal low; the position of this yellow on 

parts of red and green are employed. the line of mixtures, li G-, is at Y. 
Then the point of support (mixture-point) 
must be in the centre of the line E (j. 

a mechanical problem. An example will make this plain : 
Let the luminosity of the red and green both be 10 ; we 
now mix 5 parts of red with 5 of green, and obtain a yel- 
low ; the position of this yellow will be at Y, Fig. 98, half 


way between R and G. We put the position of yellow at 
Y because, in order that 5 parts of red may balance 5 parts 
of green, the point of support must be half way between R 
and G. We have now determined accurately on the line 
R G the position of a yellow made by mixing equal parts 
of our original red and green. This yellow, made by 
mixing .5 parts of red and 5 of green, will also have the 
same luminosity as the original red or green. If we mix 7 
parts of red with 3 of green, the position of the mixture 
will be at O, Fig. 99. If we divide up the line R G into 

fl G 

rn — I — i — n i i i r i 

Fta. 99.— Seven parts of red are mixed with three parts of green ; the mixture is orange 
in colour, and situated on the line K G at O. 

10 equal parts, then O will be distant from R by 3 parts, 
but from G by 7 parts ; for in this way alone a balance can 
be obtained. In general we shall always obtain a balance 
or equilibrium when the weight of R multiplied by its dis- 
tance from O is equal to the weight of G multiplied by the 
distance of G from O. In this last case (Fig. 99) the mix- 
ture at will be orange in colour, and will have a lumi- 
nosity identical with the original red and green. So we 
can go on filling up the line R G with all possible mixtures 
of the original red and green. Now, this is a process 
which can actually be carried out in practice. "We can 
take for our red a vermilion disk, and then select for our 
green a disk having a colour as nearly as possible of the 
same luminosity, and by the method of rotation produce all 
the tints above indicated. We can copy these tints, and 
arrange the copies along the line R G ; or, if we do not 
wish to take this trouble, we can at least always reproduce 
at will, with aid of the red and green disks, any of the 
tints belonging on the line RG. This explanation will 
serve to render clear the fundamental idea on which the 
eolour-diagi'anj of Newton and Maxwell rests. 


Thus far we have employed only two colours, red and 
green, and have been able by mixing them in different pro- 
portions to obtain various hues of orange, yellow, and 
greenish-yellow. If we wish to include the other colours, 
blue, violet, purple, and the mixtures of all the colours 
with white, we must employ at the start three instead of 
two colours. Maxwell selected vermilion, emerald-gi-een, 
and ultramarine-blue, since according to his researches they 
approximately represent the three fundamental colours. 
These he placed at the three angles of an equilateral trian- 
gle, and ascertained in a manner afterward to be explained 
the position of white (or grey) in the interior of the trian- 
gle. Every colour that can be obtained by mixing red 
with green will lie on the line joining red and green ; it is 
the same with green and blue, also with red and blue. Fig. 
100 shows these colours disposed along the sides of the tri- 
angle ; they are also so arranged that complementary col- 
ours are opposite each other ; white is in the interior, and 
along the lines joining the sides with the centre are placed 
the various colours mixed with more and more white as 
they are situated nearer to the centre. The colours made 
by mixing red with green, or green with blue, being situ- 
ated on the sides of the triangle, are consequently- as a- gen- 
eral thing nearer to the position of white than the three 
fundamental colours at the three angles of the triangle. 
This indicates in a geometrical manner the fact that the 
tints produced by the mixture of two fundamental colours 
are paler, or mixed with more white, than the fundamentals 
themselves. In general, in a chart of this kind, the farther 
we go from the centre or from the position of white, the 
more do we obtain colours which are free from admixture 
with white. The angular position of the colours is to some 
extent arbitrary, being determined partly by the process of 
mixture, and partly by the assumption that particular hues 
of red, green, and blue represent the fundamental colours. 
If we should assume as our fundamental colours red lead, 



grass-green, and violet, the angular position of all the other 
colours would be disturbed. Still, in spite of this and other 
drawbacks, the colour-diagram is valuable for purposes of 











carmine/ /'^^^ 'S) 







Fig. 100.— Shows tlio colours that are prodneed by mixing red with green, etc. The 
pale colours, op those mixed with white, are situated in the interior of triangle, and 
grow paler OS they are nearer W, or white. 

study, and enables us to express our ideas about colour in a 
geometrical form and with a certain degree of precision. 
It is easy, for example, with its aid to ascertain the result 
of mixing together any of the colours contained, or sup- 
posed to l)e contained, in it ; if we mix equal parts of red 
with cyan-blue, it is evident by inspection that the result 
must be a whitish-purple ; so again equal parts of yellow 
and cyan-blue will furnish a whitish-green. (See Fig. 100.) 
"With the aid of this diagram we can accomplish even 
we can mix together any number of colours, and 

more ; 


ascertain the position and consequently the tint of the 
resultant hue. We select any two, join them by a line, 
and ascertain, as previously explained, the position of the 
mixture tint ; we then join the third colour by a straight 
line with the point just ascertained, and again construct 
the position of the second mixture, and so on. An account 
of the mode of making a colour-diagram of this kind wiU 
be found in the appendix to this chapter, where the method 
will also be explained which Maxwell employed for the 
introduction of colours more or less luminous than the three 
fundamental ones. 

The colour-charts which thus far have actually been 
published and laid before the world have been of a different 
character from those above indicated, and are calculated to 
display the effects, not of mixing coloured light, but col- 
oured pigments. Among the older attempts we may men- 
tion those of Le Blond in 1735, and of Du Fay in 1737. In 
1758 T. Mayer published an account of his experiments. 
As three fundamental colours he selected vermilion, a bright 
yellow, and smalt-blue. Lambert in 1772 used for the con- 
struction of his pyramid carmine, gamboge, and Prussian- 
blue. These colour-charts were constructed by mingling 
weighed portions of the fundamental pigments and of lamp- 
black in such a manner as to obtain as great a variety of 
tints as possible, which were then arranged in an orderly 
series. The very beautiful colour-charts of Chevreul are 
essentially of the same nature with those just mentioned. 
Chevreul employed a circle with three radii which were 
120° apart, and placed on these radii red, yellow, and blue ; 
the hues of these colours were copied from certain portions 
of the prismatic spectrum which were selected as standards. 
Between red and yellow the various hues of orange and 
orange-yellow were introduced ; between yellow and blue 
the greens, the purples being situated between violet and 
red. This constitutes the first chromatic circle, which con- 
tains also the purest and most intense colours. In the sec- 


ond circle the same colours are shown mixed with a small, 
definite amount of black ; the third circle is like the sec- 
ond, only still more darkened, and so on. There are ten 
of these circles, each containing seventy-two tints ; com- 
plementary colours are situated opposite each other. Be- 
sides the circles, there are charts containing colours arranged 
in parallel bands ; these are intended to exhibit the effects 
of mixing black and white with the colours contained in 
the first circle. They consist of twenty-two bands, the 
band being white, the 21st black, and the 10th band the 
same as the corresponding colour in the first circle. Start- 
ing, for example, from the 10th band, as we move to the 
colour grows continually paler, being mixed with more and 
more white ; if we advance in the other direction, the col- 
our becomes darker, and ends finally in black. There are 
seventy-two sets of these bands, also one for black and 

The ideas upon which this ctart is based are not only 
in the main arbitrary, but also vague, and the execution of 
the sample examined by the author left much to be desired. 
We can not regard this colour-chart as a true step toward 
a philosophical classification of colours, but rather as a 
more elaborate repetition of the work of Mayer, Lambert, 
and Runge. In point of fact, our knowledge of colour 
and our means of experimenting on it are not at present 
sufSciently advanced to enable us even to propose a plan 
for a truly philosophical classification, and between the pro- 
posal and its execution there would be many weary steps. 
Hence, the matter contained in this chapter and its appen- 
dix is rather to be regarded as setting forth the problem 
than as attempting its solution. 





FoLLOwma a suggestion of Newton's, Maxwell constructed a 
diagram in which the colours of pigments and many natural objects 
can be laid down in accordance with certain principles and assump- 
tions presently to be explained. Now, although some of the as- 
sumptions are arbitrary, yet if they are accepted a chart is obtained 
which presents many valuable features for the student of colour. 
The nature and scope of this colour-diagram will perhaps best be 
made evident by tracing the actual construction of one as made by 
the present writer. 

Following Maxwell, vermilion, emerald-gi'een, and artificial 
ultramarine-blue were assumed as the three fundamental colours, 
and positions at the three angles of an equilateral triangle assigned 
to them. The length of each side of the triangle was 200 divisions 
of the scale employed. The first step was to determine the posi- 
tion of white in the triangle. For this purpose disks of vermilion, 
emerald-green, and ultramarine were combined as shown in Fig. 
101, smaller central disks of black and white being placed on the 

Fig. lOl.—Compoimd Disk of Vermilion, Emerald-green, Ultramarine, White and 
Black, arranged for tile production of Grey. 

same axis. It was found, when the colours were mixed by rapid 
rotation, that 36'46 parts of vermilion, with 33-76 of emerald-green 
and 29-76 of ultramarine, gave a grey similar to that obtained by 
mixing 28-45 parts of white with 71-55 of black. In the experi- 
ment 24-5 parts of white were actually obtained ; but this was cor- 


reoted by adding to it the white due to the black disk, it having 
been previously ascertained that, if the luminosity of the white 
paper composing the white disk was taken as 100, that of the black 
disk was 5'24. The same correction was made in all the cases that 
follow. The equation then reads : 

36-46 R + 33-76 G + 29-76 B = 28-45 W (I). 

The next step is to divide up the line K G, Fig. 103, in the ratio of 
36-46 to 33-76 : 

(36-46 + 83-76) : 36-46 :: 200 : 103-5. 

That is, if we mix vermilion and emerald-green in the propor- 
tion of 36-46 to 33-76, the mixture-point (a) lies on the line E G, 
and is 103-5 divisions distant from G, Fig. 103. This point is the 
position of the complement of the fundamental ultramarine, B. 
We now connect this point (a) with B by a straight line, find the 
length of the line to be 173-5 divisions, and seek the mixture-point 
of 36-46 R + 33-76 G and 29-76 B, which is obtained by the follow- 
ing proportion : 

[(36-46 -I- 33-76) -|- 2976] : 29-76 :: 173-6 : 51-64. 

Tills mixture-point is the position of white ; for vermilion, em- 
erald-green, and ultramarine, when mixed in the above proportions, 
produce white. Hence, white (W, Fig. 103) will be on the line 
oB, 61-64 divisions from a. (It evidently must be somewhere on 
this line, for at the two extremities of the line are colours which 
are complementary, and there must be a mixture-point on the line 
which is white.) It will be noticed that in this proceeding the 
colours have been ideated, according to Newton's suggestion, as 
though they were weights acting on the ends of lever-arms, and 
these arms have been taken of such lengths as to bring the system 
into equilibrium. It will also be observed that it has been assumed 
that the pigments, vermilion, emerald-green, and ultramarine, have 
the same intensity, or that equal areas of them have the same 
weight. Thus, 36-46 i)arts of vermilion and 33-76 of emerald-green, 
acting on a lever-arm 61-64 divisions in length, balance 29-76 parts 
of ultramarine acting on an arm with a length of 121-86 divisions. 
The lever-arms of the vermilion and emerald-green passing through 
"W are also similarly balanced, and the whole system is in equilib- 

The white or grey which was obtained in equation (1) was the 


equivalent of 100 parts of colour; by multiplying 28'45 by 3'51 we 
obtain 100, and we set these 100 grey units in the place of 28-45 W 
in equation (1), and obtain what Maxwell calls the corrected value 
of the white. The factor 3'51 is called the coefficient of the white, 
and is used to establish a relation between equation (1) and those 
that follow. The coefficients of vermilion, emerald-green, and 
ultramarine have at the outset been assumed as 1, and hence in its 
corrected form equation (1) reads thus : 

36-46 R + 33-76 G + 29-'76 B = 100 w (2). 

We have now laid down upon our colour-diagram the position 
of our three fundamental colours and that of white, and are pre- 
pared to assign positions to all other pigments or mixtures of pig- 
ments. For example, to determine the position of pale chrome- 
yellow, a disk covered with this pigment is to be combined with 
disks of emerald-green and ultramarine, and set in rotation (Fig. 

riG. 102.— Oomponnd Disk of Chrome-yellow, Emerald-green, TTltramarbie, 'White, and 
Black, arranged so as to give a pare Grey by rotation. 

102). This experiment was made, and the following equation ob- 
tained : 

26-9 Y -I- 12-6 G + 60-6 B = 32-4 W -I- 67-6 b (3). 

Before using equation (3), it is necessary to bring it into relation 
with equation (2), and the first step is to express the value of the 
white in the same manner as in equation (2), viz. . wo multiply it 
by the coefficient 3-51, and obtain in this way the value of the cor- 
rected white, or 113-87. This quantity we substitute in equation 
(3), which then reads : 

26-9 Y -t- 12-5 G -I- 60-6 B = 113-87 w (4). 


We must now introduce a corrected value for tlie chrome- yellow, so 
arranged that we shall have the same number of units, grey or col- 
oured, on both sides of the sign of equality : 

IIS-ST — (60-6 + 12-5) = 40-77. 

40-77 is then the corrected value of the chrome-yellow, and equa- 
tion (3) In its corrected form finally reads : 

40-77 Y + 12-5 G + 60-6 B = 113-87 w (6). 

To obtain the coefficient of the chrome-yellow, we divide the cor- 
rected value by the original value : 


— — — = 1-51 = coef. of ch.-yel. 

We are now prepared to determine the position of chrome-yel- 
low in the diagram. We divide the line B G into two parts having 
the ratio of 12-5 to 60-6 : 

(12-6 -I- 60-6) : 12-5:: 200 : S4-2. 

The position, then, of the complement of chrome-yellow is on the 
line B G, Fig. 103, at the spot marked cobalt, and is distant from B 
by 34-2 divisions ; the distance of this point from W is found by 
measurement to be 94-1 divisions. We connect the point by a 
straight line with W, and produce the line some distance beyond ; 
the position of chrome-yellow will be on this line, and may be 
found by the following proportion : Weight of chrome-yellow : 
weight of emerald-green and ultramarine :: distance of emerald- 
green and ultramarine : distance of chrome-yellow ; or, 

40-77 : (60-6 + 12-5): -.94-1 : 168-7. 

Clirome-yellow is consequently distant from the neutral point or 
white 168-7 divisions; we insert it in the diagram along with its 
coefficient 1-61. By a corresponding process the positions and coef- 
ficients of a number of the more ordinary colours have been laid 
down in the diagram. See Fig. 103. If the diagram is examined, 
it will be found that along any single radius the pale colours, or 
those mixed with much white, are located nearer W than those 
that are more free from such admixture; it will also be noticed that 
the more luminous colours have higher coefficients. By the aid of 
this diagram we obtain relative measures of the luminosity and sat- 
uration of colours on the same or on closely adjacent radii ; the 




Fig. 103. — Maxwell's Colour- Diagram as constructed by 0. N. E. 

colours also have angular positions assigned to them, so that they 
are fairly defined as to angular position, intensity, and greater or 
less freedom from white. 

It is, however, to be remarked that the construction rests upon 
several more or less arbitrary assumptions, as: 1. That vermilion, 
emerald-green, and ultramarine-blue reaUy correspond to the three 
fundamental colours. If we substitute in place of them other col- 
ours, such as red lead, grass-green, and violet, we obtain different 


angular positions for all the colours afterward introduced, and also 
different coefficients. 2. The assumption that vermilion, emerald- 
green, and ultramarine have the same intensity or the same coeffi- 
cient is quite unwarranted, the intensity of emerald-green heiag 
evidently greater than than of ultramarine-blue. From this it fol- 
lows that the coefficients and distances from the central white, W, 
are not comparable along different radii. 

The author has reconstructed the same colour-diagram, intro- 
ducing coefficients which represent the actual luminosities of the 
three fundamental colours. These coefficients were obtained by the 
method described in Chapter III. Vermilion, emerald-green, and 
artificial ultramarine-blue were, as before, assumed as the funda- 
mental colours, and placed at the three angles of an equilateral tri- 
angle. Taking the luminosity of white paper as 100, the luminosi- 
ties of the three pigments were as follows : Vermilion, 26'85 ; 
emerald-green, 48'68; ultramarine-blue, 7"57. Introducing these 
coefficients into equation (1), it becomes : 

Vermilion. Emerald-green. TJltramarine. White. 

(26-85 X -3646) + (48-68 X -33Y6) -I- {1-51 X -2976) — 28-44. 

That is : 

9-8 verm. -1- 16-4 em.-green + 2-2 ult. = 28-44 white (6). 

With the aid of equation (6), the position of white was determined 
in the manner previously employed, and found to be that indicated 
in Fig. 104, being only 13-55 divisions distant from the line V G. 
Making use of equation (3), the coefficient of chrome-yellow was 
determined as indicated below, X being this quantity : 

(48-58 X -126) -1- (X X -269) + (7-57 x 0-606)= 32-4. 
X = 80-82. 

We then have — 

6-072 em.-green + 21-74 eb.-yel. + 4-587 ult. = 32-4 (7). 

With the aid of this last equation the position of chrome-yellow can 
be laid down in the manner previously described. In Fig. 104 the 
positions of the same pigments are shown which were employed in 
the first colour- diagram, Fig. 103 ; and it will be noticed that white 
has been moved toward the line R G, and that the angular positions 
of the colours have been considerably altered. In this second col- 
our-diagram the coefficients of pigments situated along different 






Fig. 104.— Maxwell's Diagram as reconstructed by the Author, correct Coefficients being 


radii are comparable with each other, since they represent the lu- 
minosities of the pigments compared with that of white paper taken 
as 100. 

The author has constructed a new kind of colour-diagram, in 
which the colours are arranged in a different manner from those 
just described. 

Idea of the New Diagram,. — ^Let us suppose that we take a cer- 
tain quantity of pure red light and locate it on the circumference of 
a circle at E, Fig. 106, and draw the diameter K G- B, and at the 
point G B locate a quantity of pure green-blue light, just sufficient 
to neutralize the red light, or form with it a mixture which appears 
to the eye white. The position of white will then be at the centre 
of the circle, or at "W. The red and green-blue light employed will 
be considered equal in intensity, though in actual luminosities they 


may differ considerably ; they will, in point of fact, relatively to 
each other, have equal saturating powers. We next lay down on 
the circumference at Y a certain amount of pure yellow light, draw 
the diameter Y B, Fig. 105, and at B locate an amount of blue light 

Fig. 105. 

just sufficient to neutralize it, arranging matters so that the yellow 
and blue light when mixed shall reproduce a white identical in 
luminosity with that furnished by the mixture of the red and green- 
blue. The yellow and blue will differ greatly in luminosity, but, as 
they neutralize each other, will be considered to have equal inten- 
sity. Each of the four colours will also be considered to have equal 
intensity in the sense in which the word has just been employed ; 
or, instead of using the term intensity, we may say that each of the 
four coloui's will have corresponding powers of saturation. The 
same will be true of any other colours belonging on the circumfer- 
ence. In order to realize this idea, and to obtain means of assign- 
ing to the colours proper angular positions, some other considera- 
tions must be entertained. Suppose we mix the yellow located at 

Y with the green-blue located at G B : we shall by varying the pro- 
portions finally obtain a mixture which, although it is not white, 
yet will be paler or more whitish than any other mixture ; this, of 
course, is a well-known fact. In the practical construction of the 
diagram, it is assumed that this most neutral mixture wiU be ob- 
tained when the whole mass of the yellow at Y is mixed with the 
whole mass of green-blue at G B; and it is evident that, even if 
this assumption is not strictly true, it will approximate to the truth 
just in proportion as the angular distance between R and Y hap- 
pens to be a small quantity. If the angular distance between R and 

Y is a large quantity, the assumption may or may not hold good ; 


at present we have no means of deciding this point. We will take 
it for granted till the contrary is proved, and from n, the most neu- 
tral point, we draw a perpendicular ; it will pass through the centre 
of the circle, or through the position of white. The same wiU hold 
good when any other point not far distant from R is connected by 
a straight line with G B ; here also a perpendicular drawn from the 
most neutral point will pass through white. 

Bealization of the Diagram. — In order to construct this diagram 
it is necessary to prepare three coloured disks having equal intensi- 
ties, in the sense above employed, or equal saturating powers. 
These disks must also have such colours that by optical mixture 
they may be capable of furnishing white light. The colours select- 
ed were red lead, a grass-green, and artificial ultramarine-blue. 
The green disk was combined with the blue disk, and, by a rather 
elaborate series of experiments, it was ascertained that the most 
neutral mixture was obtained when equal areas were optically 
mixed, from which it was concluded, according to the fundamental 
assumption, that the saturating powers of the two disks were equal. 
After several trials, a similar equality was established between the 
green disk and one painted with shghtly darkened red lead. These 
disks when combined gave the following equation : 

23-06 red lead + 42-16 green -1- 34-'76 blue = 22-1 white. 

The coefficients of the three colours were taken as unity, since the 
colours had equal saturating powers. The relative areas of the col- 
ours in the above equation were then used as weights, and farnished 
the means of determining the positions of the three colours on the 
circumference of a circle in which white was placed at the centre. 
This was accomplished by placing the three colours at such angular 
distances apart as brought the whole system into equilibrium ; for 
example, if the weights had been equal, the angular distance of the 
three points would have been 120°. The proper angular distances 
being now laid down, the positions of darkened red lead, grass- 
green, and ultramarine were determined; and with their aid the 
positions of other pigments could be ascertained by the process of 
mixture previously explained. (See Kg. 106.) The points laid down 
in this diagram indicate colour or hue by angular position, and 
saturation or intensity by greater or less distance from "W. The 
relative amounts of white light reflected by the pigments situated 
on any particular radius can easily be determined, since distance 



from the centre measures the amount of coloured light reflected, 
and the total amount of coloured and white light reflected can be 
measured by the process described in Chapter III. "We have, how- 
ever, at present no means of generalizing this process and applying 

Uir. BLUE 


Fia, 106.— SaturatlOD-Diagram according to Rood. The three colours Med in its con- 
struction ore marked B. 

it to colours situated on different radii, since we have not the power 
of ascertaining, for example, whether our standard yellow disk at Y 
reflects the same amount of white light with the standard red disk 
at R, or more or less; we know that they reflect corresponding 
quantities of coloured light, but nothing more. Before we can 


solve this problem it wiU be necessary for us to know the relative 
luminosity of all the pure colours (free from white light) which, ac- 
cording to the construction, fall on the circumference of the circle, 
and this could only be ascertained by an especial study of the spec- 
tral colours with reference to this point ; but no such study has yet 
been made. We know that corresponding amounts of yellow and 
greenish-yellow have not only higher degrees of luminosity than 
their complements, blue and violet, but even higher than any of the 
other colours; but thus far no quantitative determinations have 
been made. Fig. 106 exbibits a diagram of the kind just described, 
containing the same colours or pigments previously employed : it is 
perhaps best called a saturation-diagram. 



We have now studied with some care the changes which 
coloured surfaces experience when viewed under various 
kinds of illumination, or when modified in appearance by 
the admixture of more or less white or coloured light. The 
appearance which a coloured surface presents to us can, 
however, be altered very materially hy a method which is 
quite different from any of those that have thus far been 
mentioned : we can actually change colour to a considera- 
ble extent without at all meddling with it directly, it being 
for this purpose only necessary to alter the colour which 





Fig. 107. — Sheets of Eed and Green Taper with Bed Squares. 

lies adjacent to it. We can satisfy ourselves of this fact 
by a very simple experiment. If we cut out of a sheet of 
red paper two square pieces an inch or two in size, and then 
place one of them on a sheet of red and the other on a sheet of 
green paper, as indicated in Fig. 107, it will be found that 
the red squai-e on the red paper will not appear nearly so 



brilliant and saturated in colour as that placed on the green 
ground, so that the observer will be disposed to doubt 
whether the two red squares are really identical in hue. 
By a somewhat analogous proceeding we can cause a sur- 
face which properly has no colour of its own, which is real- 
ly grey, to appear tinted red, blue, green, etc. These 
changes and others of a like character are produced by 
what is called contrast, and are partly due to actual effects 
generated in the eye itself and partly to fluctuations in the 
judgment of the observer. The subject of contrast is so 
important that it will be worth while to make a somewhat 
careful examination of the laws which govern it ; and for 

Fig. 108.— Grey Paper with Green Slip. 

Fig. 109.— Grey Paper with Eose-col- 
oured Image. 

this purpose it will be well for the reader to repeat some of 
the simple experiments described below. 

If we place a small piece of bright-green paper on a 
sheet of grey drawing-paper, in the manner indicated in 
Fig. 108, and then for several seconds attentively look at 
the small cross in the centre of the green slip, we shall find, 
on suddenly removing it, that in its place a faint image of 
a rose-red colour makes its appearance, Fig. 109. This red 
image presently vanishes, and the grey paper resumes its 
natural appearance. The rose-red ghost which is thus de- 
veloped has a colour which is complementary to that which 
called it into existence, and this will also be the case if we 


employ little squares of other colours : red will give rise to 
a greenish-blue image, blue to a yellow, violet to a green- 
ish-yellow, etc., the colour of the image being always com- 
plementary to that which gave rise to it. On this account 
these images are called negative, since, as far as colour 
goes, they are just the reverse of the images which are first 
presented to the eye of the observer. They are also often 
spoken of in older treatises on optics as " the accidental col- 
ours." It is quite easy to explain their production with the 
aid of the theory of Young and Helmholt?. Let us take as 
an example the experiment just described. Accordiag to 
our theory, the green light from the little square of paper, 
acting on the eye, fatigues to some extent the green nerves 
of the retina, the red and violet nerves meanwhile not 
being much affected. When the green paper is suddenly 
jerked away by the string, grey light is presented to the 
fatigued retina, and this grey light may be considered to 
consist, as far as we are concerned, of red, green, and violet 
light. The red and violet nerves, not being fatigued, re- 
spond powerfully to this stimulus ; the green nerves, how- 
ever, answer this new call on them more feebly, and in con- 
sequence we have presented to us mainly a mixture of the 
sensations red and violet, giving as a final result rose-red or 
purplish-red. The green nerves, of course, are not so fa- 
tigued that they do not act at all when the grey light is 
presented to them, but the only effect that their partial 
action has is to render the rose-coloured image somewhat 
pale or whitish in appearance. The fatigue of the optic 
nerve mentioned here does not differ essentially from that 
which it undergoes constantly, even under the conditions of 
ordinary use, where the waste is continually made good by 
the blood circulating in the retina, and by the little inter- 
vals of rest frequently occurring. In our experiment we 
have merely confined the fatigue to one set of nerves, in- 
stead of distributing it equally among the three sets. 

The above experiments and explanation will enable us 



easily to comprehend the more complicated case, where, in- 
stead of placing our little green square on grey, we lay, it 
on a sheet of coloured paper. Instead, then, of grey, let us 
take yellow paper, placing the green square on it as before,; 
Fig. 110. On suddenly withdrawing the green square, we 
find it replaced by an orange-coloured ghost, Fig. Ill, 





+ ♦ 


Fig. 110.- 

-Yellow ( 


Jroraid -with 

Green FiG. HI.— Yellow Ground with Or- 
ange-coloured Image. 

which we account for thus : As before, the green nerves 
are fatigued, the red and violet nerves remaining fresh ; 
when the square is removed, yellow light is presented to 
the retina, and this yellow light, as explained in Chapter 
IX., tends to act on the red and green nerves equally ; but 
the green nerves in the present case do not respond with 
full activity, hence the action is more confined to the red 
nerves, and, as explained in Chapter X., the resultant tint 
is necessarily orange — that is to say, we have a strong red 
sensation mingled with a weak green sensation, and the re- 
sult is the sensation called orange. In this experiment the 
violet nerves do not come into play to any great extent. If 
the green square is placed on a blue ground, the image be- 
comes violet, for the reason that the blue light which is 
presented to the fatigued retina acts, as explained in Chapter 
IX., on the green and violet nerves ; but the green nerves 
being fatigued, the action is mostly confined to the violet 
nerves, and hence the corresponding sensation. In this 
case the red nerves hardly come into play at all. 



It follows from the above examples and reasoning that 
the final effect is, that we obtain as an after-image what 
amounts to a mixture of the complementary colour of the 
-small square with the colour of the ground ; and, by recol- 
lecting this, we can easily retain this class of facts in the 

There is another similar experiment which is simpler 
than those just described, but which is nevertheless instruc- 
tive. A small square of black paper is to be placed on a 
sheet of red paper, and the attention in this case is to be 
directed to a mark on the edge of the former. (See Fig. 
112.) When the black square is suddenly removed, the ob- 

TiG. 112.— Eed Ground with Black Paper. 

server sees in place of it a more luminous spot, which in 
the case before us will of course be red ; but what is re- 
markable is the circumstance that this red image will be 
more intense or saturated in colour than the rest of the 
ground. The rest of the sheet of red paper will look as 
though grey had been mixed with its colour, Fig. 113. 
This experiment will of course succeed with paper of any 
bright colour, and Helmholtz has found that the same ef- 
fects can be obtained with the pure colours of the prismatic 
spectrum. The explanation, according to our theory, runs 
about thus : While we are in the act of looking at the edge 
of the black square, red light is passing into the eye, and is 


fatiguing all those portions of the retina that are not pro- 
tected by the presence of the black square ; it thus happens 
that the ability of the larger portion of the retina to receive 
the sensation of red is considerably diminished ; the ability 
of the protected portion of course suffers no such change. 

Fig. 118.— Eed Ground witU Intense Red Image 

When the black square is suddenly removed, the unf atigued 
portion of the retina receives a powerful impulse from the 
red surface, but the effect produced on the rest of the retina 
is inferior in degree. This accounts for the fact that the 
image of the square is brighter or more luminous ; and we 
can easily understand why it is at the same time more in- 
tense, or saturated in colour, if we remember, as explained 
in Chapter IX., that red light excites into action not only 
the red nerves, but to a less extent the green and violet 
nerves. Now, as the red nerves begin to be fatigued, the 
action of the other two sets will be relatively more power- 
ful than at first, so that gradually the sensations of green 
and violet begin to add themselves to that of red (or, what 
is the same thing, the sensation of white mingles itself with 
that of red), and the red colour of the paper looks a little 
greyish. The success «f the experiment with the pure col- 
ours of the prismatic spectrum, which contain no white, is 
easily accounted for by the explanation just given. 

This matter can be pushed even further if, instead of 



employing a black square, we take one which has a colour 
complementary to that of the ground. We substitute then 
for the black square one coloured with emerald-green, and 
repeat the experiment. (See Fig. 114.) The result is much 
the same as before, except that the red ghost is now still 
more intense or saturated in colour, Fig. 115. When the 

Fig. 114.— Blue-green Slip on Red Ground. 

Fie. lis.— Intense Bed Image on Bed 

experiment is made in this way we accomplish two objects : 
first, we protect a small portion of the retina from red light, 
so that it may be very sensitive to this kind of light after- 
ward ; second, we fatigue the green and violet nerves of 
this portion by presenting to them bluish-green light, so 
that afterward the red light from the red paper will be un- 
able to stimulate them even in a small degree ; hence the 
sensation that we receive is that of pure red, the action of 
the green and violet nerves being excluded. 

All these phenomena are cases of what is called succes- 
sive contrast, because we look in succession from one sur- 
face to another. When coloured surfaces are placed near 
each other and compared in a natural manner, successive 
contrast plays an important part, and the appearance of the 
colours is more or less modified according to its laws. If 
we attempt to confine our attention to only one of the col- 
oured surfaces, this still holds good ; for the eye involun- 
tarily wanders to the other, and to prevent this requires a 



good deal of careful practice, for fixed vision is quite op- 
posed to our natural habit. It follows from this that, in 
the natural use of the eye, the negative images, although 
present to some extent, are not sharp and distinct, and 
hence usually remain unobserved by persons not trained to 
observations of this character. Nevertheless these images 
modify to a considerable extent the appearances of coloured 
surfaces placed near each other, and the changes of hue are 
visible enough to the most uneducated eye. 

One of the most common cases belonging here is repre- 
sented in Fig. 116. We have a grey pattern traced on a 

Tig. 116.— Grey Figure on a Green Gronnd. 

green ground ; the tracery, however, will not ap1)ear pure 
grey, but tinged with a colour complementary to that of 
the, ground— that is, reddish. We can, of course, substi- 
tute for the green any other bright colour, and it will al- 


ways be found that the grey is more or less tinged with the 
complementary hue. As black is really a dark grey, we 
should expect to find it also assuming to some extent a col- 
our complementary to that of the ground ; and this is in- 
deed the case, though the effect is not quite so marked as 
with a grey of medium depth. Chevreul, in his great work 
on the simultaneous contrast of colours, relates an anecdote 
which illustrates the matter now under consideration. Plain 
red, violet-blue, and blue woven stuffs were given by cer- 
taiii dealers to manufacturers, with the request that they 
should ornament them with black patterns. When the 
goods were returned, the dealers complained that the pat- 
terns were not black, maintaining that those traced on the 
red stuffs were green, on the violet dark-greenish yellow, 
and on the blue copper-coloured. Chevreul covered the 
ground with white paper in such a way as to expose only 
the pattern, when it was found that its colour was truly 
black, and the effects which had been observed were entire- 
ly due to contrast. The remedy in such cases is not to em- 
ploy pure black, but to give it a tint a little like that of the 
coloured ground, taking care to make it just strong enough 
to balance the hue generated by contrast. If we substitute 
a white pattern for the black, something of this same effect 
can often be observed, but it is less marked than with grey 
or black. In cases like those now under consideration the 
contrast is stronger when the coloured surface is bright and 
intense or saturated in hue. The effect is also increased by 
entirely surrounding the second colour with the first ; the 
circumscribing colour ought also to be considerably larger 
than its companion. When these conditions are observed, 
the effect of contrast is generally noticeable only on the 
smaller surface, the larger one being scarcely affected. 

When, on the other hand, the two coloured surfaces are 
about equal in extent, then both suffer change. If it is de- 
sired to produce a strong effect of contrast, the coloured 
surfaces must be placed as near each other as possible. 



This is beautifully illustrated in one of the methods em- 
ployed by Chevreul in studying the laws of contrast. Two 
coloured strips were placed side by side in contact, as shown 
in Fig. 117, duplicate strips being arranged in the field of 





Fig. 117.— Arrangement to show the Effects of Simultaneous Contrast, half size. 

view at some distance from each other. The tints of the 
two central strips were both altered ; those placed at a 
greater distance apart suffered no change. In the experi- 
ment represented in Fig. 117 the central ultramarine by 
contrast is made to appear more violet in hue, the central 
cyan-blue more greenish ; the colour of the outlying strips 
is scarcely affected. In this experiment we have an appli- 
cation of the rule above given for determining the changes 
which colours experience under the influence of contrast. 
The rule is quite simple ; its application, however, involves 
a knowledge of the^ colours which are complementary to 
each other, as well as of the effects produced by mixing to- 
gether masses of coloured light. According to our rule, 
when two coloured surfaces are placed in contiguity, each 
is changed as though it had been mixed to some extent 
with the complementary colour of the other. In the exam- 
ple before us the ultramarine becomes more of a violet-blue, 



because it is mixed, or seems to be mixed, with the comple- 
mentary colour of cyan-blue — that is, ■with orange. The 
cyan-blue appears more greenish, because it is virtually 
mixed with greenish-yellow, which is the complementary 
colour of ultramarine. As it requires a little consideration 
to predict the changes which colours undergo through con- 
trast, we give below a table containing the most important 
cases : 

Pairs of Colours. Change due to Contrast. 

iEed Becomes more purplish. 

Orange " " yellowish. 

S Red " " purplish. 

( Yellow " " greenish. 

(Red " " brilliant. 

( Blue-gi'CBU " " brilliant. 

{Red " " orange-red. 

Blue " " greenish. 

j Red " " orange-red. 

( Violet " " bluish. 

3 Orange " " red-orange. 

( Yellow " " greenish-yellow. 

( Orange " " red-orange. 

/Green :..■ " " bluish-green. 

( Orange " " brilliant. 

\ Cyan-blue " " brilliant. 

( Orange " " yellowish. 

\ Violet " " bluish. 

( Yellow " " orange-yellow, 

j Green " " bluish-green. 

( YeUow " " orange-yellow. 

] Cyan-blue " " blue. 

( Yellow " " brilliant. 

1 Ultramarine-blue " " brilliant. 

1 Green " " yellowish-green. 

/Blue " " purplish. 

I Green " " yellowish-green. 

/Violet " " purplish. 

( Greenish-yeUow " " brilliant. 

( Violet " " brilliant. 

( Blue " " greenish. 

I Violet " " purplish. 



It is easy and instructive to study the changes produced by 
contrast with the aid of a chromatic circle, Pig. 118, and it 

Fig. lis. — Chromatic Circle. 

will be found that alterations in colour produced by con- 
trast obey a very simple law : When any two colours of 
the chromatic circle are brought into competition or con- 
trasted, the effect produced is apparently to move them 
both farther apart. In the case, for example, of orange 
and yellow, the orange is moved toward the red, and as- 
sumes the appearance of reddish-orange ; the yellow moves 
toward the green, and appears for the time to be greenish- 
yellow. Colours which are complementary are already as 
far apart in the chromatic circle as possible ; hence they are 
not changed in hue, but merely appear more brilliant and 
saturated. This is indeed the effect which a strict applica- 
tion of our rule leads to : the two colours are to be moved 
farther apart ; they are already situated on the opposite 
extremities of a diameter of the circle, and, if they are to 
recede still farther from each other, they can accomplish 
this in no other way than by moving outside of the circum- 
ference of the circle ; but this corresponds, as explained in 
the previous chapter, to an increase of saturation. If the 


experiments indicated in tlie table are carefully repeated, it 
will be found that all the pairs of colours there enumerated 
are not equally affected by contrast. The changes of tint 
are greatest with the colours which are situated nearest to 
each other in the cbromatic circle, and much less with those 
at a distance. Thus both red and yellow, are much changed 
by contrast, the red becoming purplish, the yeUow greenish ; 
while red with cyan-blue or blue is much less affected in 
the matter of displacement or change of hue. On the other 
hand, the colours which are distant from each other in the 
chromatic circle, while suffering but slight changes in hue, 
are made to appear more brilliant and saturated ; that is, 
they are virtually moved somewhat outside of the circle, 
the maximum effect taking place with colours which are 

Colours which are identical are affected by contrast in 
exactly the opposite way from those which are complemen- 
tary ; that is, they are made to appear duller and less satu- 
rated. The author finds that these and other effects of 
contrast can be studied with great advantage by the aid of 
two identical chromatic circles laid down on paper. One 
set of these lines should be traced on a sheet of transparent 
paper, which is afterward to be placed over the companion 
circle. The use of these circles will best be made evident 
with the aid of an example. Let us suppose that we wish 
to ascertain with their aid the effect produced by red, as 
far as contrast goes, on all the other colours, and also on 
red itself. We place the transparent circle on its compan- 
ion, so that the two drawings may coincide in position, 
and we then move the upper circle along the diameter join- 
ing red and green-blue some little distance, so that the two 
circles no longer have the same common centre. We then 
transfer the points marked red, orange, yellow, etc., on the 
upper circle, by pricking with a pin, to the lower circle, and 
these pin-marks on the lower circle will indicate the changes 
produced on all the colours by competition with red. Fig. 



119 gives the result. The stars on the dotted circle repre- 
sent the new positions of the different colours when con- 
trasted with red. If we examine them we find that red 
when contrasted with greenish-blue causes this last colour 
to move away from the centre of the circle in a straight 
line ; hence, as the new point is on the same diameter, but 
farther from the centre, we know that the greenish-blue is 



V GXmflNN 


» GWESABUffi. 

A- C!(M\HL\St 


Fig. 119.— Chromatic Circle displaced by Oontraet, showiDg the effects produced by the 
red on th6 other colours. 

not made more or less blue or green, but is simply caused 
to appear more saturated or brilliant. The new point for 
the red lies also on the same diameter, but is nearer to the 
centre of the circle ; that is, the colour remains red, but 
appears duller or less saturated. Experience confirms this. 
If a considerable number of pieces of red cloth, for exam- 
ple, are examined in succession, the last one will appear 
duller and inferior in brilliancy to the others, but it will 
still appear red. Proceeding with the examination of the 
effects produced on the other colours, we find that orange 
has been moved toward yellow, and also toward the centre 
of the circle ; hence our diagram tells us that red, when put 
into competition with orange, causes the latter to appear 


more yellowish and at the same time less intense. Advanc- 
ing along the circumference of the circle, our diagram in- 
foims us that yellow is not much affected in the matter of 
saturation or intensity, but is simply made to appear more 
greenish. The two circles during superposition cut each 
other near the position of yellow ; from this point onward 
the effect changes as far as intensity or saturation is con- 
cerned, the greenish-yellow being moved decidedly outside 
of the original circle, as well as toward the green ; it is 
made therefore, by contrast with red, to appear more bril- 
liant as well as more greenish. Green is made to appear 
somewhat bluish, and more brilliant. Greenish-blue has 
been considered. Cyan-blue is made to appear slightly 
more greenish as well as much more brilliant ; the same is 
true of blue, though its increase in brilliancy by contrast 
with red is rather less than in the case with cyan-blue. 
Violet has its hue considerably altered toward blue ; its 
saturation is diminished. Purple is made to look more violet, 
and is much diminished in saturation. If we wish to study 
the effects produced on the colours of the chromatic circle 
by contrasting them with yellow, we have of course merely 
to displace the .upper circle along the line joining yellow 
and its complement ultramarine-blue, and then proceed as 
before. The proper amount of displacement will of course 
not be very large, and can be approximately determined by 
experiment ; the upper circle, namely, is to be moved, so 
that the colours situated on either side of the points where 
the circles cut each other shall, in the diagram, Fig. 118, be 
made to suffer changes of saturation corresponding to the 
results of actual experiment. 

It is quite evident that this contrast-diagram will fur- 
nish correct results only on condition that the colours in it 
are properly arranged ; if the angular positions of the col- 
ours are laid down falsely, the results, in the matter of in- 
crease or diminution of brilliancy or saturation, will also be 
false. The author has made many experiments to settle 



Fig. 120. — Contrast-Diagram according to O. N. Rood. 

this question, and in Fig. 120 gives tis result in the form 
of a diagram ; the same result is given below in the form 
of a table : 

Table showing the Distances of the Colours from each other in the 
Contrast-Circle, according to 0. N. R. 

Angular Distances. 

Pure red to vermilion , 6° 

Vermilion to red lead 10' 

Red lead to orange 9° 

Orange to orange-yellow 36° 

Orange-yellow to yellow 28° 

Yellow to greenish-yellow 23° 

Greenish-yellow to yellowish-green 13° 

Yellowish-green to green 22° 



Green to emerald-green 10° 

Emerald-green to very greenish blue, or to complement of 
carmine 18° 

The hues of the papers employed in these experiments were 
determined with some degree of accuracy by compaiing 
them with a normal spectrum nearly six times as long as 
that furnished by a single flint-glass prism, and at the same 
time brilliant and pure. (See Chapter III.) The following 
table gives the positions of these coloured papers in a nor- 
mal spectrum, containing from A to H 1,000 equal parts ; 
the corresponding wave-lengths are also given : 

Coloured Papers. 

Position in Nor- 
mal Spectrum. 

Spectral red (vermilion washed with carmine) 

Vermilion (English) 

Ked lead 


Yellow (pale chrome) 





Cyan-blue 2 

Ultramarine, natural 

Ultramarine, artificial 

Violet ("Hoffmann's violet B.B.") 


Wave-length in 


Eather more reddish than 
any violet in the spectrum. 

From the foregoing, then, it is evident in general that 
the effect of contrast maybe helpful or harmful to colours : 
by it they may be made to look more beautiful and pre- 
cious, or they may damage each other, and then appear 
dull, pale, or even dirty. When the apparent saturation is 
increased, we have the first effect ; the second, when it is 
diminished. Our diagram. Fig. 119, shows that the satura- 


tion is diminislied when the contrasting cblours are situated 
near each other in the chromatic circle, and increased when 
the reverse is true. It might be supposed that we could 
easily overcome the damaging effects of harmful contrast 
by simply making the colours themselves from the start 
somewhat more brilliant ; this, however, is far from being 
true. The pleasure due to helpful contrast is not merely 
owing to the fact that the colours appear brilliant or satu- 
rated, but that they have been so disposed, and provided 
with such companions, that they are made to glow with 
more than their natural brilliancy. Then they strike us as 
precious and delicious, and this is true even when the actual 
tints are such as we would call poor or duU in isolation. 
From this it follows that paintings, made up almost entirely 
of tints that by themselves seem modest and far from bril- 
liant, often strike us as being rich and gorgeous in colour ; 
whUe, on the other hand, the most gaudy colours can easily 
be arranged so as to produce a depressing effect on the be- 
holder. We shall see hereafter that, in making chromatic 
compositions for decorative purposes or for paintings, artists 
of all times have necessarily been controlled to a consider- 
able extent by the laws of contrast, which they have in- 
stinctively obeyed, Just as children in walking and leaping 
respect the law of gravitation, though unconscious of its 

The phenomena of contrast, as exhibited by colours 
which are intense, pure, end brilliant, are to be explained 
to a considerable extent by the, fatigue of the nerves, as 
set forth in the early part of the present chapter. The 
changes in colour and saturation become particularly con- 
spicuous after somewhat prolonged observation, and are 
often attended with a peculiar soft glimmering, which 
seems to float over the surfaces, and, in the case of colours 
that are far af)art in the chromatic circle, to lend them a 
lustrous appearance. Still, upon the whole, the effects of 
contrast with brilliant colours are often not strongly marked 


at first glance, from the circumstance that the colours, by- 
virtue of their actual intensity and strength, are ahle to 
resist these changes, and it often requires a practised eye 
to detect them with certainty. The case is quite other- 
wise with colours which are more or less pale or dark — that 
is, which are deficient in saturation or luminosity, or both. 
Here the original sensation produced on the eye is compara- 
tively feeble, and it is hence more readily modified by con- 
trast. In these cases the fatigue of the nerves of the retina 
plays but a very subordinate part, as we recognize the ef- 
fects of contrast at tlie first glance. We have to deal here 
with what is known as simultaneous contrast, the effects 
taking place when the two surfaces are as far as possible 
regarded simultaneously. In the case of simultaneous con- 
trast the changes are due mainly to fluctuations of the 
judgment of the observer, but little to the fatigue of the 
retiaal nerves. 

We carry in ourselves no standard by which we can 
measure the saturation of colour or its exact place in the 
chromatic scale ; hence, if we have no undoubted external 
standard at hand with which to compare our colours, we 
are easily deceived. A slip of paper of a pale but very 
decided blue-green hue was placed on a sheet of paper of 
the same general tint, but somewhat darker and more in- 
tense or saturated in hue. The small slip now appeared 
pure grey, and by no effort of the reason or imagination 
could it be made to look otherwise. In this experiment no 
undoubted pure grey was present in the field of view for 
comparison, and in point of fact the small slip did actually 
approach a pure grey in hue more nearly than the large 
sheet ; hence the eye iastantly accepted it for pure grey. 
The matter did not, however, stop here. A slip of pure 
grey paper was now brought into the same green field, but, 
instead of serving as a standard to correct the illusion, it 
assumed at once the appearance of a reddish-grey. The 
pure grey really did approach reddish-grey more than the 



green field surrounding it, and hence was accepted for this 
tint. The same pale blue-green slip, when placed on a pale- 
reddish ground, assumed a stronger blue-green hue than 
when on a white ground. In the first of these experiments! 
we have an illustration of harmful and in the second ofl 
helpful simultaneous contrast. The result in both cases co- 
incided with that which successive contrast would have 
produced under similar circumstances. 

It has been stated above that the effects produced by 
simultaneous contrast are dite not to retinal fatigue, but to 
deception of the judgment ; now, as the effects of simulta- 
neous contrast are identical in kind with those generated by 

Fig. 121. — Shadow of Rod in Darkened Boom. 

successive contrast, it is evident that the statement needs 
some proof. This can be furnished with the aid of a beau- 
tiful experiment with coloured shadows. In making this 
experiment we allow white daylight to enter a darkened 
room through an aperture. A, arranged in a window, as in- 
dicated in Fig. 121. At R we set up a rod, and allow its 
shadow to fall on a sheet of white cardboard, or on the 



white wall of the room. It is evident now that the whole 
of the cardboard will be illuminated with white light, ex- 
cept those portions occupied by the shadow 1. We then 
hght the candle at C, Fig. 122 ; its light will also fall on 

Via. 122.— Shadows of Rod, using Daylight and Candle-light. 

the cardboard screen, and will then cast the shadow 2 ; that 
is, the candle-light will illuminate all parts of the screen 
except those occupied by the shadow 2 ; this portion will 
be illuminated with pure white light. Instead, however, of 
appearing to the eye white, the shadow 2 will seem to be 
coloured decidedly bliie. For the production of the most 
powerful effect, it is desirable that the shadows should 
have the same depth, which can be effected by regulating 
the size of the aperture admitting daylight. Now, although 
the shadow cast by the candle is actually pure white, yet, 
by contrast with the surrounding orange-yellow ground, it 
is made to appear decidedly blue. So strong is the illusion 
that, even after the causes which gave rise to it have disap- 
peared, it still persists, as can be shown by the following 
experiment of Helmholtz -• While the coloured shadows are 


falling on the screen, they are to be viewed through a 
blackened tube of cardboard, held in such a way that the 
observer has both the shadows in his field of view ; the ap- 
pearance then will be like- that, represented in Fig, 133. 

Fig. 123.— Blue and Tollow Shadows viewed through a Tube. 

After the blue shadow has developed itself in full intensity, 
the tube is to be moved to the left, so that the blue shadow 
may fill the whole field; The tube being held steadily in 
the new position, the shadow will still continue to appear 
blue instead of white, even although the exciting cause, viz., 
the orange-yellow candle-light, is no longer acting on the 
eye. The candle may be blowil out, but the surface will 
still appear blue as long as the eye is at the tube. On re- 
moving the tube, the illusion instantly vanishes, and it is 
perceived .that the colour of the surface is identical with 
that of the rest of the screen, which is at once recognized 
as white. In a case like this the fatigue of the retinal ele- 
ments can play no part, as the illusion persists during a far 
longer period of time than is necessary for their complete 
rest ; we must hence attribute the result to a deception of 
the judgment. Expressing this in the language of Young's 
theory, we say that the sensation of white is produced 
when the three sets of nerves, red, green, and violet, are 


Stimulated to about the same extent ; but that nevertheless, 
as we have in ourselves no means of judging with certainty 
about this equality of stimulation, we may under certain 
circumstances be induced to accept an unequal for an equal 
stimulation, or the reverse. In the experiment with the 
coloured shadows we had before us in the shadow due to 
the candle-flame an equal stimulation, which by contrast 
we were in the first instance induced to accept as unequal, 
and the judgment afterward obstinately persisted in the 
error till it was corrected and took a new departure. 

This experiment may be modified and extended by the 
use of coloured glasses instead of a candle-flame. The win- 
dow is to be provided with two apertures, one of which is 
to be covered with a piece of stained glass, through which 
sunshine will be "admitted to the darkened room ; the other 
aperture will admit white light, as before. If red glass be 
employed, the colour of the shadows will appear red and 
greenish-blue. In each case the shadows will assume com- 
plementary colours. 

The effects of simultaneous contrast can also be studied 
with the aid of a contrivance of Ragona Scina. Two sheets 
of white cardboard are attached to a couple of boards fast- 
ened together at a right angle, as indicated in Fig. 124. 
Between the boards a plate of rather deeply coloured glass, 
G, is to be held in the manner shown in the figure, so that 
it makes, with the vertical and horizontal cardboards, an 
angle of about 45°. If the eye is placed at E, two masses 
of light will be sent to it. From the vertical cardboard 
white light will start, and, after being reflected on the glass 
plate G, will reach the eye. This light will be white, or 
almost entirely white, even after suffering reflection, owing 
to the circumstance that, with a deeply coloured plate of 
glass, the reflection takes place almost entirely from the 
upper surface, or from that turned toward the light. The 
second mass of light will proceed from the horizontal plate 
H : originally of course it was white light, but on its way 



to the eye it traverses the glass plate, and becomes coloured 
by absorption. If the glass plate is red, this light when it 
reaches the eye will of coui-se have the same colour ; conse- 
quently the first result is that we have presented to the eye 

Fie. 124.— Apparatus of Bagona Scina for Contrast. 

a mixture of red with white light, which will give the 
observer the idea that he is looking at an horizontal, square 
field of a somewhat pale reddish tint. If now a small 
black square be attached to the vertical cardboard at B, of 
course no white light can come to the eye from this portion 
of the cardboard, and the image of this spot will seem to 
the eye to be at b, on the -horizontal board under the eye. 
Under ordinary circumstances this image would appear 
black ; in point of fact, however, in this case it appears 
deep red, owing to the red light transmitted by the plate 
of glass. Thus far the arrangement amounts to a device 
for presenting to the eye a mixture of red with white light, 
the white light being absent at a certain spot, which conse- 
quently appears of a deeper red. A similar black square 
is now to be placed on the horizontal board at c ; it will of 



course prevent the light from the place it covers from 
reaching either the red glass or the eye, and under ordinary- 
circumstances would be perceived simply as a square black 
spot. Owing, however, to the fact that the upper surface 
of the glass plate is reflecting white light to the eye, it 
really appears as a grey spot. The final result is, that we 
present to the eye at E a picture like that indicated by 
Fig. 125 ; that is, on a pale-red ground we have a spot 
which is pure grey, and near it one which is deep red. 




Fia. 125.— ColourB that are really presented to the eye in the eJiperiment of Eagona 


Owing to contrast, however, the appearance is different : 
instead of a grey spot, we see one strongly coloured green- 
blue (Fig. 126). This effect is partly due to contrast with 





Fio. 126.— Colours that are apparently presented to the eye, 

the pale red of the ground, but still more to the presence 
of the deep-red spot. This latter we can remove by taking 
away the black square B, which diminishes the effect con- 


siderably. But now comes the most curious part of this 
experiment : If we select a square of grey paper which has 
the same color with the grey square seen in the apparatus 
arranged as in Fig. 124 (apart from effects of contrast), and 
place it over the glass plate and near the other two images, 
it will not be afEected in colour, or only to a slight extent. 
In point of fact, we now have, side by side, on the same 
field, two grey squares quite identical in actual colour, but 
one appears by contrast blue-green, while the other is not 
afEected, but is perceived by the eye as being simply a 
square of grey paper. As soon, however, as the observer 
recognizes the fact that these two squares really have the 
same grey colour, the illusion instantly vanishes, and both 
of them remain persistently grey. It is evident that in 
this case, as with the coloured shadows, the judgment is at 
fault rather than the retLaal nerves ; for, as soon as an 
opportunity offers, it corrects itseK and takes a new de- 
parture. The illusion in this case, as well as with the col- 
oured shadows, is produced quite independently of the 
knowledge of the observer, who may indeed be a trained 
physicist, minutely acquainted with the exact facts of the 
case, and with all the details employed in producing the 
deception, and still find himself quite unable to escape from 
its enthrallment. 

The simple experiments of H. Mayer are less trouble- 
some than those just described, and at the same time highly 
instructive. A small strip of grey paper is placed on a 
sheet of green paper, as indicated in Fig. 127 ; it will be 
found that the tint of the grey paper scarcely changes, tfti- 
less the experimenter sits and stares at the combination 
for some time. A sheet of thin semi-transparent white 
paper is now to be placed over the whole, when it wUl in- 
stantly be perceived that the colour of the small slip has 
been converted by contrast into a pale red. Persons seeing 
this illusion for the first time are always much astonished. 
Here we have an experiment showing that the contrast 



produced by strong, saturated tints is much feebler than 
with tints which are pale or mixed with much white light ; 
for, by placing tissue paper over the green sheet, the colour 
of -the latter is extraordinarily weakened and mixed with a 

Pre. 127.— Green and Grey Papers, for Experiment on Contrast ; one-fourth size. 

large quantity of white light. In this experiment it often 
happens that the red, which is due to contrast alone, seems 
actually stronger than the green ground itself. If, instead 
of using a slip of .grey paper, we employ one of black, the 
contrast is less marked, and still less with one of white. 
It is scarcely necessary to add that, if red paper is em- 
ployed, the small grey slip becomes tinted by contrast 
with the complementary colour, i. e., greenish-blue ; the 
same is true with the other colours. 

By preparing with Indian ink a series of slips of gi-ey 
paper, ranging from pure white to black, an interesting 
series of observations can be made on the conditions most 
favourable for the production of strong contrast-colours. 
The strongest contrast will be produced in the case of red, 
orange, and yellow, when the grey slip is a little darker 
than the colour on which it is placed, the reverse being 
true of green, blue, viotet, and purple ; in every case, the 
contrast is weaker if the grey slip is much lighter or much 
darker than the ground. We must expect then, in paint- 
ing, to find that neutral grey will be more altered by pale 


tints of red, orange, or yellow, which are slightly lighter 
than itself, and that the grey will be less altered by these 
colours when differing considerably from it in luminosity. 
An analogous conclusion with regard to green, blue, violet, 
and purple can also be drawn ; these colours should be 
darker than the grey slip. Saturated or intense colours in 
a painting have less effect on white or grey than colours that 
are pale. This was shown in the preliminary experiment, 
where grey was placed on a ground of strong colour. In 
repeating these experiments, it will be noticed that the 
effect of contrast is stronger with green, blue, and violet 
than with red, orange, or yellow ; that is to say, it is 
stronger with the cold than with the warm colours. If 
now we reverse our mode of proceeding, and place a small 
coloured slip on a grey ground, and cover the whole with 
tissue paper, it will be difficult even with a green slip to 
observe any effect of contrast. With a green sUp, one 
sometimes imagines that the white sheet looks slightly 
pinkish or purplish for an instant, but the effect is quite 
uncertain. This is another illustration of the fact that, for 
the production of strong effects of contrast, it is necessary 
that the active colour should have a surface considerably 
larger than the one to be acted on ; the former ought also, 
if possible, to surround the latter. There is, however, a 
limit beyond which this can not be carried. If the smaller 
field is reduced too much in size, it is liable to melt to a 
certain extent into the larger field of colour, in which case 
we obtain, not the effect due to contrast, but that pro- 
duced by a mixture in the eye of the two colours ; this is 
indeed one method employed by artists for the mixing of 
their colours. 

Leaving now the contrast between pale colours and 
pure grey, we pause to consider for a moment the contrast 
of pale colours with each other. The laws governing this 
species of contrast have already been explained in detail in 
an earlier portion of the present chapter, and a construction 


has been given by which the reader can study the differ- 
ences produced in hue and saturation. To this it may now 
be added that, where pale tints afe used in juxtaposition, 
the phenomena are those of simultaneous contrast, the ret- 
inal elements experiencing scarcely any fatigue ; hence the 
effects are due to deceptions of the judgment, and occur 
instantly. They are more marked than with intense or satu- 
rated colours, and the effects produced even much more sur- 
prising. These effects are heightened if the contrasted col- 
ours have about the same degree of luminosity, or differ in 
the same manner as in the spectrum ; that is, if the warm 
colours are selected so as to be rather more luminous than 
those that are cold. In Chapter III. the reader will find a 
table showing the relative luminosity of the different col- 
ours of the spectrum, and, what is still more to our purpose, 
another giving the relative luminosity of the different com- 
ponents of white light. 

We must next examine the effects that are produced by 
contrasting colours that differ in luminosity or in satura- 
tion. If the two colours are identical except in the matter 
of saturation, it will be found that the one which is more 
saturated will gain in intensity, while its pale rival will 
appear still paler. A slip of paper painted with a some- 
what pale red, when placed on a vermilion ground, appears 
still paler, and may actually be made to look white. If a 
still paler slip be used, it may even become tinged greenish- 
blue, its colour being in this case actually reversed by the 
effect of contrast. With the aid of the two movable chro- 
matic circles shown in Fig. 119, it is easy to trace these 
changes theoretically. As a pale colour, or one mixed with 
much white, already lies near the centre of the upper cir- 
cle,* a small displacement carries it to the centre, that is, 
makes it appear white ; or it may even transport it beyond, 
and cause it to assume the complementary colour. When 

* See Chapter XIV. 


the colours differ in luminosity, analogous effects are ob- 
served. A dull-red slip was placed on a vermilion ground ; 
the effect was as though' a quantity of grey had been added 
to the slip ; it looked more dingy and somewhat blackish. 
Another slip still darker and containing less red, when 
placed on the same ground, looked as if it were tinged with 
olive-green ; a still darker slip, with still less red colour, 
treated in the same way, looked black with a tinge of blue ; 
when, however, this last slip was placed on a white ground, 
or compared with true black, it was seen that its colour 
was far from black. The general result of contrasting col- 
ours which differ much in strength, then, is that the feebler 
one appears either more whitish or greyish, or assumes the 
complementary tint ; the stronger one, on the other hand, 
appears still more intense. If the strong and weak colours 
are complementary to each other, then each of them gains 
in intensity and appears purer, this gain seeming to be 
greater in the case of the pale tint. From this it follows 
that, while the juxtaposition of strong with feeble colours 
usually injures or greatly alters the latter, colours that are 
complementary furnish an exception, the reason of which is 
evident at the first glance. 

When the pale or dark colours are not complementary to 
their more intense or brilliant rivals, they undergo the same 
changes indicated in the table on page 245, the changes in the 
case of the dull or pale colours being considerably greater. 
In proportion as the colours are distant from each other in 
the chromatic circle do they gain in saturation and beauty ; 
while as they approach their character is altered, and they 
are apt to look very pale, or, in the case of the dark col- 
ours, blackish or dirty. This is particularly so when the 
brilliant colour is large in surface and surrounds the darker 
one ; with reversed conditions the effect is not so much 
felt. Thus, a somewhat dull red near vermilion no longer 
looks red, but brown ; a dull orange tint on the same 
ground looks like a yellowish-brown. 


It might be supposed from .what has preceded that col- 
ours would enrich each other only when separated hy a 
large interval in the chromatic circle ; and from a purely 
physiological point of view this is indeed true. StUl, there 
are other influences of a more spiritual character at work, 
which modify and sometimes even reverse this lower law. 
Thus, the presence of paler colour in a painting near that 
which is richer often passes unperceived, simply making the 
impression of a higher degree of illumination. We recog- 
nize the representation of a flood of light, and delight in it, 
without finding fault with the pale tints, if only they are 
laid with decision and knowledge. Again, pale colour we 
delight in as representing the distance of a landscape ; the 
pale greenish-greys, bluish-greys, and faint tints of purple 
which make it up, we never think of putting into envious com- 
petition with the rich intense colours of the foreground, but 
enjoy each separately, and rejoice in the effect of atmosphere 
and distance, which neither kind of colour alone by itself 
could adequately render. That is to say, for the sake of 
light and atmosphere or distance, we gladly sacrifice a large 
portion of the powerful tints at our disposal, and consider 
ourselves gainers. The same is also true in another di- 
rection ; we are ready to make the same sacrifice for the 
sake of avoiding monotony and gaining variety, provided 
only we can justify the act by a good reason. Cases of 
this kind often occur in large masses of foliage, which, if 
of the same general colour, are apt in a painting to look 
monotonous and dull, unless great labour is bestowed in 
rendering the light and shade and the small differences of 
tint which actually exist in nature. Under such circum- 
stances the observer feels a certain relief at the presence of 
a few groups of foliage which are decidedly paler in colour 
than the surrounding masses, provided only there is a good 
excuse for their introduction. WiUow-trees agitated by 
wind, and showing the under sides .of their leaves, which 
are of a pale-greenish hue, offer a familiar example. 


Again, the mere contrast of dark or dull tints enhances the 
colour and luminosity of those that are bright, and the ob- 
server receives the impression that he is gazing at a mass 
of gay and beautiful colouring, scarcely noticing the pres- 
ence of the much larger quantity of tints that are darkened 
by being in deep shade. These darkened shade-tints are 
usually not variations of the same hue as the brighter tints, 
but are more bluish ; so that, technically, the combinations 
would often present instances of harmful contrast, were it 
not for the fact that the bright and duU tints do not belong 
even to the same chromatic circle, but to circles situated in 
different planes, as explained in the previous chapter. Put- 
ting this into more ordinary language, we should say sim- 
ply that the strong contrast of light and shade masked such 
effects of harmful colour-contrast as were present. There 
is, however, another case where we are not so indifferent or 
lenient. Where two objects are placed near each other in 
a painting, and there is good reason why both should dis- 
play the same colour with equal intensity, if one is painted 
with rich colour, the other with a pale or dark shade of the 
same colour, then the latter will look either washed out or 
dirty, and a bad effect will be produced. As a familiar 
illustration of this kind of effect, we may allude to the use 
in dress of two widely differing shades of ribbon, which 
have still the same general colour. 

There is a still more general reason upon which the 
pleasure that we experience from contrast depends. After 
gazing at large surfaces fiUed with many varieties of warm 
colour, skillfully blended, we feel a peculiar delight in 
meeting a few mildly contrasting tints ; they prevent us 
from being cloyed with all the wealth of rich colouring so 
lavishly displayed, and their faint contradiction makes us 
doubly enjoy the richer portions of the painting. So also 
when the picture is mainly made up of cool, bluish tints : 
it is then extraordinarily strengthened and brightened by a 
few touches of warm colour. Precisely the same idea 



holds good in drawings destitute of colour, and made up 
merely of lines : if the drawing is composed mainly of soft 
flowing curves, a few slanting straight lines across them 
seem delicious ; or, to take a parallel case from another 
department of art, in a discourse which is mainly grave in 
tone the introduction of a few slight touches of humour 
brightens and warms the audience most pleasantly. If 
there is about an equal quantity of gay and sombre tints, 
the effect is less good, becoming particularly bad when the 
composition is divided up into many alternate groups of 
gay and pale or sombre colours, impartially distributed. 

Before concluding this chapter, it is necessary to add a 
few words with regard "to the simple contrast of light and 
shade, that is, where all the elements are comprised by 
white, black, and intermediate shades of grey. As might 
be expected from what has preceded, when a light gi'ey is 

rio. 128.— Black and White Disk 
for Exporlment on Contrast. 

Fio. 129. — Showing the result when 
disk, Fig. 12S, is set into rapid 

placed near a darker grey, the light shade appears still 
lighter, the dark shade still darker. This can be beautifully 
shown with the aid of our very convenient revolving disks. 
"We take a black and white disk painted as represented in 
Fig. 128. When this disk is set in rotation, it will, on ac- 
count of the mixture of the black and white, produce a 
series of grey rings, growing darker as we proceed from 



the circumference toward the centre. Each ring, from the 
circumstances of the case, will as a matter of fact haye an 
absolutely uniform shade of grey, hut nevertheless it will 
not appear so to the observer. The rings will appear to him 
not uniform, but shaded, the lightest shade being always 
turned inward toward the centre, as roughly represented in 
Fig. 129. Where a ring comes in contact with one that is 
lighter than itself, it is made to look darker ; with one 
darker than itself, to look lighter. The same effect can be 
observed by painting a series of pieces of paper with differ- 
ent flat tints of grey, and then arranging them to corre- 
spond with the disk experiment ; they will present an 
appearance like that indicated by Fig. 130. It is hardly 

Fia. ISO. — Slips of grey paper made to appear shaded by contrast. 

necessary to add that in light-and-shade drawings, as well 
as in nature, appearances of this kind, more or less modified, 
are of constant occurrence. One of the most common cases 
is where range after range of mountains rise behind one 
another, the lower portions of the distant ranges appearing 
lighter than the upper outlines. During rain, ranges of 
hills often exhibit this phenomenon with astonishing dis- 
tinctness. Even when the light and dark tints are at quite 
a distance from each other, the phenomena of contrast pre- 
sent themselves if there is much difference in the depth of 


the two sets of shades. It is a very common experience 
that the sky of a landscape in a drawing turns out too pale 
after the rest of the drawing is completed. Contrasted 
with the white paper of the unfinished sketch, it may look 
quite right ; but, after the deeper tones of the distance and 
foreground are added, may become quite insignificant. 
Again, a few decidedly black touches in a drawing will 
often by contrast lighten up portions that had previously 
seemed considerably too dark ; or a few touches of pure 
white will apparently darken spaces that had seemed pale 
and weak. In each case the observer is furnished by exter- 
nal means with a standard for measuring the depth of the 
shade, and induced to use it rather than his memory. By 
the skillful employment of contrast, drawings in light and 
shade can be made to appear luminous and brilliant, or rich 
and deep ; neglect of this element produces tameness and 
feebleness. The contrast of light with dark shades is not 
inferior in power to that of warm with cool tints ; and, in 
point of fact, the contrast of white with black is the strong- 
est case of contrast possible. We have on the one hand 
the presence of all the colours, on the other their total ab- 
sence. Hence, as has been noticed before, the contrast that 
takes place between light and shade will sometimes mask 
or even reverse that which occurs with different colours. 
We can perhaps better tolerate a shortcoming in the matter 
of colour-contrast than in that of light and shade ; if the 
latter is right and powerful, we forgive a limited amount of 
inferiority in the former, merely remarking that the work 
is rather slight or pale in colour, but not on that account 
pronouncing a verdict of total condemnation. On the other 
hand, if the colour as such is right, but the depth of the 
different tints mostly defective, then the whole is spoiled, 
and we contemplate the tints, lovely enough in isolation, 
with no satisfaction. We forgive, then, a partial denial of 
the truths of colour more easily than those of light and 
shade, which probably is a result of the nature of the opti- 


cal education of the race. For the human race, thus far, 
light and shade has been the all-important element in the 
recognition of external objects ; colour has played only a 
subordinate part, and has been rather a source of pleasure 
than of positive utility. 

All that has been said with regard to the contrasts of 
white, black, and grey, with slight modification, applies to 
any single colour taken by itself ; for instance, to drawings 
executed in one colour only, such as blue or brown. From 
this it results that every colour is capable of exhibiting two 
kinds of contrast, viz., that involved by competition with 
other colours and that of mere light and shade. 

The contrast of white, black, and grey with the series of 
positive colours remains to be noticed. Taking up these in 
order, we find that red when placed on a white ground ap- 
pears darker and rather more intense in hue ; on a black 
ground it becomes tinted somewhat orange-red, and looks 
of course more luminous. Both these effects are probably 
due ultimately to mere contrast of light and shade ; the 
white ground makes the red by contrast look darker. But 
we are accustomed to see red when it is darkened recede 
from orange and approach pure red, or even perhaps to be- 
come somewhat purplish ; hence it appears so in this case ; 
it is an instance of expectant attention. When red is 
placed on a black ground, it is made by contrast to look 
more luminous ; but we are accustomed to see luminous red 
become tinted with an orange hue ; hence the result. Red 
on grey grounds of various depths undergoes modifications 
corresponding to those just mentioned. Pale red, i. e., red 
mixed with much white, on a white ground, gains in inten- 
sity of colour ; on a black or dark-grey ground it loses 
intensity, and approximates to pure white in appearance. 
Here the contrast of light and shade is so strong as to cause 
the colour to pass almost unperceived ; or we may say pale 
red really does approach much nearer to pure white than 
black, and hence is at last accepted for it. Dark, dull red 


on a white ground may be mistaken for brown ; on a black 
ground it appears more luminous and more red. Orange 
on a wbite ground looks darker and more reddish, on a 
black ground more luminous and yellow. The other effects 
correspond with those described in the case of red. Tel- 
low on a white ground appears darker and more greenish 
than on a black ground ; in the latter case it is particu- 
larly brilliant, and the black also looks well, taking on a 
bluish tint. Dark yellow on a white ground looks brown 
or greenish-brown ; on a black ground its colour is dis- 
played to more advantage. Pale yellow on a white ground 
is apt to look greenish, on a black ground to appear whitish. 
Yellow and grey or black constitute a pleasant combina- 
tion, of which extensive use has been made in nature and 
art. Green on a white ground looks deeper and richer, on 
a black ground somewhat paler ; by contrast the black is 
made to look somewhat reddish or rusty. Green causes 
grey to appear reddish ; the effect is particularly marked 
when the grey has about the same luminosity with the 
green, also when both are in the shade. Cyan-blue on 
white appears darker and perhaps more greenish than on 
black. Blue on white appears dark and rich, but shows no 
tendency to green ; on black, by contrast, it becomes more 
luminous. The same is true with blue on grey ; the latter 
acquires a somewhat yellowish or rusty hue. The action 
with violet is similar to that of bine. 

From the foregoing it is evident that the contrast of 
black, white, and grey with the colours depends mainly on 
an apparent increase or diminution of their luminosity, 
whereby in most cases their apparent hue is affected owing 
to association. In the case of the colder colours, the tint 
of the grey or black ground is affected, and shows a ten- 
dency toward a hue complementary to the colour em- 
ployed. We associate grey with blueness, and where the 
effect is such as contradicts this habitual association it is 
disagreeable ; on the other hand, grey with yellow forms 


an agreeable contrast, as tlie yellow tends to make the grey 
look more bluish, and thus corrects any yellowish or rusty 
appearance connected with it. It is claimed in some works 
on colour that the complementary tints furnished by the 
pure grey react on and strengthen the colours which call 
them forth. An eye which is tired by gazing at green is 
Ladeed rested by looking at its complement, i. e., at a mix- 
ture of red and violet, and afterward will see the green with 
more vividness ; but it is diflBcult to understand how the 
presentation of red, violet, and green, or, what is the same 
thing, grey light, can materially refresh the eye, or restore 
its temporarily exhausted power. In the case of pale tints, 
an effect of this character does indeed seem to take place, 
but we must attribute it rather to an act of judgment than 
to a physiological cause. 



In the preceding chapter we have seen that, when two 
colours which are nearly identical are contrasted, each is ■ 
made to appear less intense or saturated : red with orange- 
red, yellow with orange-yellow, cyan-Wue with blue, are 
examples of such combinations. From this it might be 
supposed that, in chromatic compositions, it would not be 
allowable to place colours thus nearly related in close juxta- 
position. It is, however, found in practice that colours 
which are distant from each other in the chromatic circle 
by a small interval can be associated without detriment 
under certain conditions. If the two colours express a varia- 
tion in the luminosity of one and the same coloured surface, 
they do not come into hurtful competition, and we receive 
the impression of a single coloured surface, more highly 
illuminated in certain portions. The scarlet coat of a sol- 
dier when shaded appears red ; the sunlit portion is orange- 
red. Grass in the sunshine acquires a yellowish-green hue ; 
in the shade its colour is more bluish. But neither of 
these cases produces on us a disagreeable effect, for we re- 
gard them as the natural consequences of the kind of illu- 
mination to which these objects are exposed. The effect is 
not disagreeable even in mere ornamental painting, if it is 
seen that the two tints are intended to express different 
degrees of luminosity of the same constituent of the design, 
even though this be only arabesque tracery. From this 
explanation it follows that the two contiguous tints should 


have their luminosities arranged so as to correspond to 
nature ; otherwise a contradictory effect would be produced. 
The following table gives a series of small intervals, ar- 
ranged properly as to luminosity; and it will be seen to cor- 
respond to the relative luminosities of the colours of the 
spectrum, or of the colours which taken together make up 
white light (see Chapter III.) : 

Table or Small Intervals. 

Darker. Lighter. 

Bed Orange-red. 

Orange-red Orange. 

Orange , Orange-yellow. 

Orange-yellow Yellow. 

Yellowish-green Greenish-yellow. 

Green Yellowish-green. 

Cyan-blue Green. 

Blue Cyan-blue. 

Ultramarlne-blue Blue. 

Yiolet Purple. 

Purple Red. 

It will be noticed that the colours under the heading " Dark- 
er " are really the shade-tints of the series opposite them, 
and the difference may often be greater than that indicated 
in the table. One of the commonest of these intervals is 
that of yellow deepening into orange-yellow. In sunsets 
yellow scarcely occurs without undergoing a change of this 
kind ; it is almost the rule with yellow flowers ; and even 
the pale, broken, subdued yellowish-browns of many natu- 
ral objects manifest the same tendency. The relations of 
greenish-yellow, etc., to green are shown beautifully by 
foliage under sunlight, while the interval of cyan-blue to 
blue or to ultramarine-blue is displayed on the grandest 
scale by the sky. In brilliant sunsets the first and last pair 
of intervals are of constant occurrence ; in fact, we can 
scarcely think of a sunset without calling up in imagination 


red and purple. The interval greenisli-yeUow and yellow 
is not included in the list ; it is perhaps less easy to tolerate 
than any of the others ; we like to see yellow luminous or 
rich, that is, passing into orange ; but, when it begins to 
become decidedly greenish, we hesitate, unless there is 
some good reason for accepting it. When the small inter- 
val is used, and the two tints are put more or less into com- 
petition by belonging to different surfaces, the effect is less 
good, unless it is accounted for by the nature of the illumi- 
nation, or in some other equally satisfactory way. 

Much of the above applies to the case where the colours 
pass into each other by gentle and insensible gradations, so 
that the observer is quite at a loss to say where one ends 
and the other begins. Here, as before, colours which are 
nearly related, or separated only by a small interval, blend 
harmoniously into each other and produce a good effect. 
The reason of this is again found mainly in our precon- 
ceived ideas of the changes which coloured surfaces under- 
go when more or less strongly illuminated. If the colours 
are quite distant from each other in the chromatic circle, a 
rapid transition from one to the other, by blending, pro- 
duces always a strange and often a disagreeable effect. A 
yellow surface distinctly opposed or contrasted to a blue 
surface often gives a good effect ; but, if it passes by a 
series of quick gradations into blue, the effect is bad ; it is 
as though it tried to assert at the same time that it was 
warm and luminous as well as cold and dark. In the case 
of the sky, it is true that we have, toward sunset, the yel- 
low portions ^lending below into orange and red, and above, 
by a long and slow series of gradations, into blue ; but the 
distance between the blue and yellow is large, and they are 
separated by a series of neutral tints, and we think of the 
whole as an effect produced by apparent nearness or dis- 
tance from the sun. Even in a case like this, many artists 
prefer not to include in their paintings too much of the 
upper blue, and thus are able to give more decided expres- 


sion to the warmth and brightness of the sky. When we 
see in nature a field of grass gradually growing decidedly 
red, we think of clover as the excuse, without, nevertheless, 
being particularly edified by its presence. In some moun- 
tain lakes, such as the Konigssee, we find the blue-green 
water actually passing in some places by rather quick gra- 
dations into a purplish-red. The rapid transition into this 
almost complementary hue produces an effect which seems 
strange and almost incredible to those who for the first time 
behold it. When the cause is recognized, we learn to look 
upon the purple patches as marking the shallower water, 
and, having accepted the effect as reasonable, we soon find 
ourselves enchanted by it, and always remember it for its 
strange beauty. 

When two colours differing considerably, not only in 
hue but in saturation, or simply in the latter respect, blend 
rapidly into each other on the same surface, we always 
require a reason for the change of tint ; and, if none is fur- 
nished, the effect is apt to appear absurd, and resemble 
somewhat the case of a man who at one moment is calm 
and cool, and the next, without obvious reason, tender and 
pathetic. When we find the cool grey or greyish-brown 
tones on the surface of a cliff suddenly becoming rose- 
tinted, we require an explanation of the change, and are 
quite satisfied if told that the top of the cliff is still illumi- 
nated by the sinking sun ; if, however, it is midday, we are 
forced to think of red veins of some foreign substance dis- 
seminated through the sober rock, and wonder what it can 
possibly be, and wish it were away. All this forms one of 
the minor reasons why painters like to keep their tints to- 
gether in large masses, the bright warm colours in one 
place, the cool pale tints in another. 

One of the most important characteristics of colour in 
nature is the endless, almost infinite gradations which al- 
ways accompany it. It is impossible to escape from the 
delicate changes which the colour of all natural objects un- 


dergoes, owing to the way the light strikes them, without 
taking all the precautions necessary for an experiment in a 
physical laboratory. Even if the surface employed be 
white and flat, still some portions of it are sure to be more 
highly illuminated than others, and hence to appear a little 
more yellowish or less greyish ; and, besides this source of 
change, it is receiving coloured light from all coloured ob- 
jects near it, and reflecting it variously from its different 
portions. If a painter represents a sheet of paper in a pic- 
ture by a uniform white or grey patch, it will seem quite 
wrong, and can not be made to look right till it is covered 
by delicate gradations of light and shade and colour. We 
are in the habit of thinking of a sheet of paper as being 
quite uniform in tint, and yet instantly reject as insuflScient 
such a representation of it. In this matter our unconscious 
education is enormously in advance of our conscious ; our 
memory of sensations is immense, our recollections of the 
causes that produce them utterly insignificant ; and we do 
not remember the causes mainly because we never knew 
them. It is one of the tasks of the artist to ascertain the 
causes that give rise to the highly complex sensations which 
he experiences, even in so simple a case as that just consid- 
ered. From this it follows that his knowledge of the ele- 
ments that go to make up chromatic sensations is very vast 
compared with that of ordinary persons ; on the other 
hand, his recollection of mere chromatic sensations may or 
may not be more extensive than theirs. Hence it follows 
that it requires long training to acquire the power of con- 
sciously tracing fainter gradations of colour, though much 
of the pleasure experienced by their passive reception can 
be enjoyed without previous labour. 

These ever-present gentle changes of colour in all natu- 
ral objects give to the mind a sense of the richness and 
vastness of the resources of ITature ; there is always some- 
thing more to see, some new evanescent series of delicate 
tints to trace ; and, even where there is no conscious study 


of colour, it Still produces its effect on the mind of the be- 
holder, giving him a sense of the fullness of Nature, and a 
dim perception of the infinite series of gentle changes by 
which she constantly varies the aspects of the commonest 
objects. This orderly succession of tints, gently blending 
into one another, is one of the greatest sources of beauty 
that we are acquainted with, and the best artists constantly 
strive to introduce more and more of this element into their 
works, relying for their triumphs far more on gradation 
than on contrast. The greatest effects in oratory are also 
produced by corresponding means ; it is the modulation of 
the tone and thought, far more than sharp contrasts, that is 
effective in deeply moving audiences. We are very sensi- 
tive to the matter of modulation even in ordinaiy speech, 
and instantly form a general judgment with regard to the 
degree of cultivation and refinement of a stranger from the 
mode in which a few words are pronounced. All this has 
its parallel in the use of colour, riot only in painting, but 
also in decoration. Ruskiri, speaking of gradation of col- 
our, says : " Tou will find in practice that brilliancy of hue 
and vigor of light, and even the aspect of transparency in 
shade, are essentially dependent on this character alone ; 
hardness, coldness, and opacity resulting far more from 
equality of colour than from nature of colour." In another 
place the same author, in giving advice to a beginner, says : 
" And it does not matter how small the touch of colour may 
be, though not larger than the smallest pin's head, if one 
part of it is not darker than the rest, it is a bad touch ; for 
it is not merely because the natural fact is so that your col- 
our should be gradated ; the preciousness and pleasantness 
of colour depends more on this than on any other of its 
qualities, for gradation is to colours just what cui-vature is 
to lines, both being felt to be beautiful by the pure instinct 
of every human mind, and both, considered as types, ex- 
pressing the law of gradual change and progress in the 
human soul itself. What the difference is in mere beauty 


between a gradated and ungradated colour may be seen 
easily by laying an even tint of rose-colour on paper and 
putting a rose-leaf beside it. The victorious beauty of the 
rose as compared with other flowers depends wholly on the 
delicacy and quantity of its colour-gradations, all other 
flowers being either less rich in gradation, not having so 
many folds of leaf, or less tender, being patched and veined 
instead of flushed." * 

All the great colourists have been deeply permeated by 
a sentiment of this kind, and their works, when viewed 
from the intended distance, are tremulous with changing 
tints — with tints that literally seem to change under the 
eye, so that it is often impossible for the copyist to say 
exactly what they are, his mixtures never seeming to be 
quite right, alter them as he will. Among modern land- 
scape paintings, those of Turner are famous for their end- 
less quantity of gradation, and the same is true even of his 
water-colour drawings. The perfect blending of colours, 
for example, in the sky, or in our best representations of it, 
produces an effect of wonderful softness and beauty, the 
tints melting into each other with a liquid smoothness for 
which we can find no other parallel. The absolutely per- 
fect gradation and softness of the sky well expresses its 
qualities as a gas, impalpable, evanescent, boundless. 

There is, however, another lower degree of gradation 
which has a peculiar charm of its own, and is very precious 
in art and nature. The effect referred to takes place when 
different colours are placed side by side in lines or dots, 
and then viewed at such a distance that the blending is 
more or less accomplished by the eye of the beholder. 
Under these circumstances the tints mix on the retina, and 
produce new colours, which are identical with those that 

* " Elements of Drawing," .by J. Ruskin. The distinguished artist 
Samuel Colman once remarked to the writer, that this book not only con- 
tained more that was useful to the student of art than any previous work, 
but that it contained more than all of them put together. 


are obtained by the method of revolving disks. (See 
Chapter X.) If the coloured lines or dots are quite distant 
from the eye, the mixture is of course perfect, and presents 
nothing remarkable in its appearance ; but before this dis- 
tance is reached there is a stage in which the colours are 
blended, though somewhat imperfectly, so that the surface 
seems to flicker or glimmer — an effect that no doubt arises 
from a faint perception from time to time of its constitu- 
ents. This communicates a soft and peculiar brilliancy to 
the surface, and gives it a certain appearance of transpar- 
ency ; we seem to see into it and below it. Dove's theory 
of lustre has perhaps some bearing on this well-known phe- 
nomenon. According to Dove, when two masses of hght 
simultaneously act on the eyes, lustre is perceived, provided 
we are in any way made conscious that there are actually 
two masses of light. On a polished varnished table we see 
the surface by means of its imperfections, scratches, dust, 
etc., and then besides have presented to us another mass of 
light which is regularly reflected from the surface ; the 
table looks to iis lustrous. The author, and afterward Dove 
in a different way, succeeded in producing this lustrous ap- 
pearance when only a single eye was employed, that is, 
without the aid of binocular vision.* In the case before 
us, the images of the colour-dots are more or less superim- 
posed on the retina, and consequently seen one through the 
other ; and at the right distance there is some perception 
of a lack of uniformity, the degree of blending varying 
from time to time. According to Dove's theory, we have 
here the conditions necessary for the production of more or 
less soft brilliancy. With bright complementary colours 
the maximum degree of lustre is obtained ; when the col- 
ours are near each other iq the chromatic circle, or dull or 
pale, the effect is not marked, but exists to the extent of 
making the surface appear somewhat transparent. When 
the two colours are replaced simply by black and white, 
* " American Journal of Science and Arts," May, 1861. 


the same lustrous appearance is still produced. Sir David 
Brewster has described an experiment which has some hear- 
ing on these matters. If a wall-paper is selected with a 
pattern which repeats itself at intervals of a few inches, it 
is possible, after some practice, so to arrange the eyes as to 
cause the adjacent and corresponding portions to seem to 
coalesce and form a new picture, which will in most respects 
be identical with that obtained by ordinary vision. This 
new picture will not seem to be at the same distance from 
the eye as the real objects, and will move with each slight 
motion of the head ; but what concerns us more is, that it has 
a certain appearance of transparency and beauty not found 
in the original. In this experiment two slightly dissimilar 
masses of light are presented to the two eyes, and the result is 
an appearance of transparency, using this word in its artis- 
tic sense. 

But to return : the result of this imperfect blending of 
colours or of black and white by the eye is to communicate 
to the surface an appearance of clearness, and to remove 
any idea of hardness or chalkiness ; it is so familiar to us 
that we accept it as quite natural, and only become con- 
scious of its charm when it is withdrawn. As an example 
in nature, we have the somewhat distant sea under a bright- 
blue sky : the waves will be mainly green, the spaces be- 
tween them blue ; these colours then blend into a sparkling 
greenish-blue, which can not be imitated with a simple 
mixed pigment. Also in grasses viewed at some distance, 
the yellowish-green, bluish-green, reddish, purplish, and 
brown tints, and the glancing lights, blend more or less to- 
gether, and produce an effect which can not be reproduced 
by a single sweep of the brush. The more distant foliage 
of trees &n hillsides shows something of this kind ; and it 
does not appear to be entirely absent even from the dust on 
a traveled road, the minute sparkling grains of sand still 
producing some action on the eye after they can no longer 
be distinguished individually. 


In fresco-painting, and in scene-painting for the theatre, 
most extensive use is made of this principle : at the right 
distance adjacent tints hlend, and what near at hand seemed 
a mass of purposeless daubs becomes an effective picture. 
This same method of mixing colours on the retina of the 
observer is also used more or less in oil painting with ex- 
cellent effect ; it lends to them a magical charm, the tints 
seeming purer and more varying ; the very fact that the 
appearance of the painting changes somewhat according as 
the observer advances or retires from it being an advantage, 
communicating to it, as we might say, a certain kind of life. 
Oil paintings in which this principle is not employed labour 
under one quite demonstrable disadvantage : as the observer 
retires adjacent tints blend, whether it was the intention of 
the artist or not ; and if this has not been calculated for, a 
new and inferior effect is pretty sure to be produced. In 
water-colour drawings the same mode of working is con- 
stantly employed under the form of stippling, more or less 
formal ; and with its aid certain results of transparency 
and richness can be attained, which otherwise would be out 
of the reach of the artist. If the stippling is formal and 
quite evident, it is apt to give a mechanical look to a draw- 
ing, which is not particularly pleasant ; but properly used, 
it has great value, and readily lends itself to the expression 
of form. To descend several steps lower, we find the de- 
signers of wall-papers and carpets employing this mode of 
mixing colours and producing their gradations. In cash- 
mere shawls the same principle is developed and pushed to 
a great extent, and much of their beauty is dependent on it. 
Finally, in etchings, engravings, and pen-and-ink drawings, 
we have other examples of its application ; their clearness, 
transparency, and sparkling effect being mainly due to the 
somewhat imperfect blending of the black and white lines. 
This effect can best be perceived by comparing them with 
lithographs, or, better still, with Indian ink or sepia drawings. 
The sky-like softness of the last two is very lovely, and, in 


some respects, very true to nature ; but if in them the line 
manner is entirely avoided, they are a little apt to show a 
lack of transparency in the deeper masses of shade, and to 
look heavy or dull. This result is avoided by purposely 
introducing a certain amount , of line-drawing, either with 
the pen or a small brush. We have in natui-e a great 
variety of appearances, and the various methods of art are 
calculated to represent one or the other of them more or 
less perfectly ; but there is no single kind of art manipula- 
tion which will deal equally weU with all. 

Finally, it is to be remarked that when colour is used 
simply for ornamental purposes, blending or gradation 
becomes of subordinate importance. This is the case, for 
exmaple, where the design is worked out solely in flat tints. 
Work of this kind, where the fancy is not allowed to inter- 
fere much with the general correctness of the drawing or 
colour, forms one of the first steps by which painting gradu- 
ally passes over into pure ornamental design. We have 
here colours arranged in harmonious masses, bounded by 
sharp outlines, often definitely traced in black, and are 
pleased with them, and with the beautiful, correct outlines. 
All gradation and blending of colours is abolished, and this 
fact alone announces to us, in an emphatic way, that the 
design makes no pretension to realistic representation ; we 
are pleased with the colours and outlines, and are rather 
surprised to find how much can be accomplished by them ; 
and if gold is introduced in the background or draperies, 
its presence only adds to the general effect. By insensible 
changes the figures of men and animals, etc., become more 
conventional or grotesque, as in heraldry, until finally there 
is no attempt made to portray any particular natural object. 
Suggestions are taken from objects in nature, which are 
used in much the same way fi-s by musical composers. The 
intention, however, is the production of a beautiful design 
which shall serve to ornament something else, as a woven 
stuff, a vase, or the wall of a building. As gradation is 


one of .our most eificient modes of giving work in colour a 
thorouglJy realistic appearance, it evidently can not be 
much employed in ornament, where it is an object to avoid 
any imputation of intentional realism. 

In closing this chapter it may be well to allude to a 
singular effect often produced by insensible gradation on 
natural objects, or on their representations in paintings. 
We have seen that a coloured surface having a well-defined 
shape, when placed on a grey ground, is capable through 
contrast of causing the ground to appear of the comple- 
mentary colour. For example, a grey square or a green 
ground will appear as though tinted with rose-colour. If, 
however, the green passes into the grey by insensible gra- 
dations, the matter may be so arranged that a small amount 
of green causes the whole surface to appear green, when 
most of it really is grey. This effect is often seen on rocks 
partially covered with green moss : a few small patches on 
the side exposed to the light will have a bright-green hue ; 
some of the surface in the shade will be tinted dark green, 
this colour passing gently into brown or grey, with here 
and there a few quite small touches of olive-green. Three 
fourths of the surface of the shaded side of the rock will 
then be really grey or brown, but nevertheless the whole 
wiU appear to be dark green. Another very common 
example is furnished by the foliage of trees standing so 
that the sun appears to be over them. Under these circum- 
stances their tops and sides catch the sunbeams and appear 
of a bright yellowish-green ; the rest of the tree is in the 
shade, and appears at first sight of a darker green, and is 
always so painted by beginners. If, however, the colour is 
examined through an aperture about the size of a pea, cut 
in a piece of white cardboard, it will be found that the real 
colour is a somewhat greenish grey. On retiring farther 
from the tree, this colour of its shady side will often change 
to a pure grey, yet to a casual observer it will still appear 
green. Quite wonderful effects have been obtained by 


some artists from the recognition of the principle here 
involved ; their calm resignation of every trace of local 
colouring, and acceptance in its place of some kind of grey, 
imparting to their pictures a high degree of aerial perspec- 
tive and of apparent luminosity. 



In the previous portions of this work we have dealt 
with facts that are capable of more or less rigorous demon- 
stration ; but we now encounter a great series of problems 
that can not be solved by the methods of the laboratory, or 
by the aid of a strictly logical process. Why a certain 
combination of colours pleases us, or why we are left cold 
or even somewhat shocked by another arrangement, are 
questions for which we can not always frame answers that 
are satisfactory even to ourselves. There is no doubt that 
helpful and harmful contrast have a very great influence on 
our decision, as will hereafter be pointed out ; but besides 
this, we are sometimes influenced by obscure and even 
unknown considerations. Among these may perhaps be 
found inherited tendencies to like or dislike certain com- 
binations or even colours ; influence of the general colour- 
atmosphere by which we are surrounded ; training ; and 
also a more or less delicate nervous susceptibility. 

The author gives below, in the form of tables, some of 
the results furnished by experience, and takes pleasure in 
acknowledging his indebtedness to Brticke and to Chevreul 
for much of the information contained in them. 

Spectral i-ed * with blue gives its best combination. 

Spectral red with green gives a strong but rather hard combination. 

* A red between carmine and vermilion. 


Spectral red with yellow gires an inferior combination. 
Spectral red with red lead gives a bad combination. 
Spectral red with violet gives a bad combination. 

If gold be substituted for the yellow pigment, the com- 
bination becomes excellent. Red and yellow also make a 
better combination when the red inclines to purple and the 
yellow to greenish-yellow. The combination red and yellow 
is also improved by darkening the yellow or both colours ; 
this causes the yellow to appear like a soft olive-green (R.). 
The combination red and green is also improved by darken- 
ing both colours, or the green alone (R.). 

Vermilion with blue gives an excellent combination. 
Vermilion with cyan-blue gives an excellent combination. 
Vermilion with green gives an inferior combination. 
Vermilion with yellow gives an inferior combination. 
Vermilion with violet gives a bad combination. 

Vermilion and gold furnish an excellent combination. 
The combination vermilion and yellow is improved some- 
what by darkening the yellow ; if it is considerably dark- 
ened, it tells as a soft olive-green (R.). Vermilion and 
green are better when the green or both colours are much 
darkened (R.). 

Red lead with blue gives an excellent combination. 

Red lead with cyan-blue gives an excellent combination. 

Red lead with blue-green gives a strong but disagreeable combination. 

Red lead with yellowish-green gives a tolerably good combination. 

Red lead with yellow gives quite a good combination. 

Red lead with orange gives quite a good combination. 

Tlie combination red lead and bluish-green is improved 
by darkening the green or both the colours (R.). Red lead 
gives a better combination with a yellow having a corre- 
sponding intensity or saturation ; if the yellow is too bright, 
the effect is inferior (R.). The combination red lead and 
yellow is much better than red and orange. The last two 


combinations given in tlie table are of course cases where 
the small interval is employed. (See Chapter XVI.) 

Orange with cyan-blue gives a good and strong combination. 
Orange with ultramarine gives a good and strong combination. 
Orange with green gives a good combination. 
Orange with violet gives a moderately good combination. 

Orange-yellow with ultramarine gives its best combination. 
Orange-yellow with cyan-blue gives not quite so good a combination. 
Orange-yellow with violet gives a good combination. 
Orange-yellow with purple gives a good combination. 
Orange-yellow with purple-red gives an inferior combination. 
Orange-yellow with spectral red gives an inferior combination. 
Orange-yellow with sea-green gives a bad combination. 

Yellow with violet gives its best combinations. 

Yellow with purple-red gives good combinations. 

Yellow with purple gives good combinations. 

Yellow with spectral red gives inferior combmations. 

Yellow with blue, inferior to orange-yellow and blue. 

Yellow with blue-green gives one of the worst possible combinations. 

Yellow with green gives bad combinations. 

The combination yellow and spectral red is improved by 
darkening the yellow (K.). Blue-green and yellow, both 
much darkeiied, give a better combination (R.). According 
to Chevreul, yellow gives with green a good and lively 
combination ; to this the author can not agree, although it 
is true that the effect is improved by darkening the yellow 
considerably. Chrome-yellow and emerald-green give com- 
binations that are not bad when both the colours are very 
much darkened (R.). 

Greenish-yellow with violet gives its best combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with purple gives good combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with purplish-red gives good combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with vermilion gives strong but hard combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with spectral red gives strong but hard combinations 
Greenish-yellow with red lead gives tolerably good combinations. 


Greenish-yellow with orange-yellow gives bad combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with cyan-blue gives bad combinations. 
Greenish-yellow with ultramarine gives a somewhat better combination. 

The combination greenish-yellow and orange-yellow is 
improved by darkening the latter colour, which then appears 
brownish (R.). Greenish-yellow and cyan-blue make a bet- 
ter combination when the blue is darkened (R.). 

Grass-green with violet gives good but difficult combinations. 
Grass-green with purple-violet gives good but difficult combinations. 
Grass-green with rose gives combinations of doubtful value. 
Grass-green with carmine gives combinations of doubtful value. 
Grass-green with pink gives combinations of doubtful value. 
Grass-green with blue gives combinations of doubtful value. 

The value of the last four combinations is a disputed 
matter. The combination green and carmine is improved 
by darkening both colours considerably (R.). The combi- 
nation green and blue becomes better as the green inclines 
to yellow and the blue to violet (R.). The combination 
green and violet, according to Chevreul, is better when the 
paler hues of these colours are employed. 

Emerald-green with violet gives strong but hard combinations. 
Emerald-green with purple gives strong but hard combinations. 
Emerald-green with red gives strong but hard combinations. 
Emerald-green with orange gives strong but hard combinations. 
Emerald-green with yellow gives bad combinations. 

All these combinations are very difficult to handle. 
Emerald-green and yellow, when both are much darkened, 
furnish somewhat better combinations (R.). 

Sea-green with vermilion gives good combinations. 

Sea-green witli red lead gives good combinations. 

Sea-green with violet gives good combinations. 

Sea-green with purple-violet gives tolerably good combinations. 

Sea-green with purple-red gives, simply as pairs, poor combinations. 


Sea-green with carmine gives, simply as pairs, poor combinations. 
Sea-green with blue gives bad combinations. 
Sea-green with yellow gives bad combinations. 

The surface of the green should he much larger than 
that of the vermilion or red lead. 

Cyan-blue with chrome-yellow gives moderate combinations. 

Cyan-blue with Naples-yellow gives good combinations. 

Cyan-blue with straw-yellow gives good combinations. 

Cyan-blue with carmine (light tones) gives good combinations. 

Cyan-blue with violet gives poor combinations. 

Cyan-blue with purple-violet gives poor combinations. 

Cyan-blue with ultramarine gives good combinations (small interval). 

The combinations of cyan-blue with violet and purple- 
violet are not good, except in fine materials and light 

Ultramarine with carmine gives poorer combinations than cyan-blue. 
Ultramarine with purple-red gives poorer combinations than cyan-blue. 
Ultramarine with violet gives, simply as pairs, poor combinations. 

Violet with purple gives poor combinations if extended beyond the 

small interval. 
Violet with carmine gives poor combinations. 

In studying the effects produced by colours in combina- 
tion, it is of course important to exclude as far as possible 
all extraneous causes that might influence or confuse the 
judgment. Hence the colours under examination should be 
disposed in very simple patterns, as the employment of 
beautiful form or good composition might easily become a 
means of leading the student to accept, as good, combina- 
tions that owed their beauty to something besides mere 
colour. For the same reason, gradation and good light- 
and-shade effect should in such examinations be avoided ; 
for these, as well as good composition, are means .of con- 
cealing to some extent the poverty of a colour-combination. 
For a similar reason the materials employed in such experi- 


ments should not be too fine. Almost any colour-combina- 
tion worked out in stained glass appears pretty good, owing 
to the brilliancy of the coloured light. This is one reason 
why the patterns ia a kaleidoscope have been of so little 
value in decorative art ; for, when the colours are most 
carefully imitated in coarser materials, they are apt not 
only to lose their brilliancy, but even sometimes to appear 
dull or dirty from the effects of harmful contrast, which 
did not make itself felt before. To a less degree this 
applies also to silk ; many colour-combinations worked out 
in this material are tolerable on account of its high reflect- 
ing power, while the same colours, if transferred to wool or 
cotton, appear poor enough. 

In forming a judgment as to the value of combinations 
of' colour, we should also be catitious in basing our conclu- 
sions even on observations made directly from nature itself ; 
for here our judgment is liable to be warped by the pres- 
ence of beautiful form, good composition, exquisite grada- 
tion, and high luminosity. Green and blue, for example, 
make a poor combination, and yet it is one constantly 
occurring in nature, as in the case where the blue sky is 
seen through green foliage. This effect is often very good, 
but a careful examination will show that, in most cases, 
blue and green do not really come in contact ; for if the 
sunlight penetrates the leaves in contact with the sky, they 
no longer look green, but greenish-yellow, and this colour 
makes a tolerable combination, particularly with ultramarine- 
blue. Generally, however, the leaves actually in contact 
with the sky are in the shade, or at least do not send bright 
light to the eye, and we have really greenish-grey or 
brownish-green combined with the blue of the sky. When 
green actually does fairly touch the blue of the sky, as 
with a forest of young trees growing thickly, the green is 
usually far darker than the blue sky, as may be seen by 
closing the eyes partially. Here the combination is helped 
somewhat by light-and-shade contrast ; but when, owing to 


any cause, the blue of the sky is darkened till it approxi- 
mates in luminosity to the green of the foliage, then the 
colour-comhination is felt by an artist to be bad. The forms 
of trees are so beautiful, the variety, the gradation they 
exhibit so endless, the associations called up by them so 
agreeable, that we are apt to deceive ourselves about this 
colour-combination ; but when an attempt is made to trans- 
fer it to canvas, we become painfully sensible of the fact 
that Nature sometimes delights in working out beautiful 
effects with colours that are of very doubtful value, cun- 
ningly hiding their poverty with devices that often are not 
easy to discover or to imitate. 

There are several causes that may render a combination 
of two colours bad. Prominent among them we find the 
matter of contrast : the colours may look dull and poor on 
account of harmful contrast, or may on the other hand 
appear hard and harsh from an excess of helpful contrast. 
The author has placed in the form of a diagram the results 
of his observations on the effects of contrast in diminishing 
or increasing the saturation or brilliancy of colours. This 
diagram (Fig. 131) and its use are explained in Chapter 
XV., and at present we merely remind the reader that 
colours less than 80° or 90° apart suffer from harmful con- 
trast, while those more distant help each other. In the 
case of colours that are about 80° apart, the matter remains 
a little doubtful ; the two colours may help each other 
somewhat, or the reverse may be true. On comparing this 
diagram with the results furnished by experience and given 
in the preceding tables, it will be found that in good com- 
binations the two colours are always more than 90° apart, 
so that the effect of contrast is mutually helpful. Thus, 
red furnishes good combinations with blue and cyan-blue, 
which are considerably more than 90° distant from it ; 
while the combination with artificial ultramarine, which is 
nearer, is inferior, and that with violet bad. It does not 
follow, however, that the colours in the diagram which are 












\^ \ 









SP.HTO ~- 





Fia. 181.— Contrast Diagram. 

situated farthest apart always make the best combinations ; 
for, if this were the case, the best combinations would be 
simply the complementary pairs, which in the diagram are 
placed at the greatest distance from each otber, viz., oppo- 
site. But some of the complementary colours are quite 
harsh from excessive contrast ; for example, red and its 
complement green-blue, also purple and its complement 
green. Of all the complementary pairs, according to 
Briicke, these are least employed in art, as the harshness 
with them is at a maximum. Now we can divide the 
colour-diagram. Fig. 131, into two halves by a line drawn 
from yellowish-green to violet, and the left-hand half will 
contain the warm colours, the right-hand the cold. After 
doing this, we find that red and green-blue, or purple and 
green, are not only complementary, but also situated at or 


near the positions, if we may so express it, of the greatest 
warmth and coldness ; hence, owing to a double reason, the 
contrast becomes excessive, and the combination harsh. 
According to the same authority, the complementary col- 
ours most in use are ultramarine and yellow, blue and 
orange-yellow, or cyan-blue and orange ; then follow violet 
and greenish-yellow. In these cases, the complementary- 
pairs are situated at some distance from the centres of 
warmth and coldness, being in fact either on or not far 
from the dividing line, which prevents excessive contrast 
and the consequent hardness complained of in the examples 
first cited. It may here be remarked that colours which 
are truly complementary often appear better than those 
which only approximate to this condition ; vermilion and 
red lead, with their complements green-blue and greenish- 
blue, do not furnish such offensive combinations as are 
obtained when green is substituted for the true comple- 
mentary hue. 

The complementary colours are very valuable when the 
artist is obliged to work with dark, dull, or pale colours, 
and still is desirous of obtaining a strong or brilliant effect. 
The fact that the colours are duU or pale or greyish pre- 
vents much possibility of harshness ; and the use of com- 
plementary hues excludes all risk of the brilliancy of the 
tints being damaged by harmful contrast. In general, the 
lower we go in the scale, and the more our colours approxi- 
mate to black, brown, or grey, the more freely can we 
employ complementary hues without producing harshness ; 
and even those objectionable pairs, red and green-blue, 
purple and green, if sufficiently darkened, become agree- 

It has been stated above that in good combinations the 
colours are always a considerable distance apart in the 
chromatic circle. This, however, does not exclude the class 
of combinations mentioned in Chapter XVI.,- where it was 
shown that any two colours differing but slightly produce 


a more or less pleasant effect ; this is the case of the small 
interval, which at present we are not considering. 

Now, although in good combinations the colours are 
rather far apart in the chromatic circle, it does not follow 
that all colours that are far apart make good combinations. 
When green, emerald-green, or bluish-green enters into a 
combination, it is apt to produce a harsh effect if the green 
is at all decided or covers much space. The enormous 
difficulty of managing full greens or bluish-greens is per- 
fectly well understood by artists, and many of them avoid 
their use as far as possible. The presence in a picture of a 
very moderate amount of a colour approaching bluish-green 
or emerald-green excites in most persons a feeling of dis- 
gust, and causes a work otherwise good to appear cold and 
hard — very cold and hard. Corresponding to this, most 
artists seem to be of the opinion that the pigment known 
as emerald-green is more intense and saturated than any of 
the other colours used by them. From a purely optical 
point of view this would seem hardly to be the case : 
emerald-green reflects more white light mixed with its 
coloured rays than vermilion, and its luminosity is not out 
of proportion to those of vermilion or ultramarine-blue, if 
we adopt as our standard the luminosities of the corre- 
sponding colours in the spectrum. Hence we must seek 
elsewhere for the reason of its unusually intense action. 
The author is disposed to attribute this well-known intol- 
erance of all full greens to the fact that green light exhausts 
the nervous power of the eye sooner than light of any other 
colour. This exhaustion is proved by the observation that 
the after-pictures, or accidental colours, are more vivid with 
green than with the other colours. (See Chapter VEQ.) 
Now, as a general thing, very strong sensations are offensive 
when freely interspersed among those that are weaker ; 
thus Hehnholtz has shown that discord in music is due to 
the presence of " beats," which are merely rapid alterna- 
tions of sound and silence following each other at such 


intervals as to allow the sensitiveness of the ear to remain 
at a maximum, and lience producing disagreeably intense 
sensations which ofEend. Quite analogous to this is the 
action of a flickering light, which is both disagreeable and 
hurtful to the eye. This general principle, as it seems to 
the author, applies also to the matter now in hand : a green 
which optically may be the equivalent of a red, .yellow, 
blue, or violet, nevertheless produces on the nerves of the 
eye a more powerful and exhausting sensation than these 
colours, and hence is out of harmony with them, or dis- 
cordant. Besides this, and apart from these considerations, 
green is not a colour suggestive of light or warmth, but is 
what artists call cold ; the peculiar action above alluded to 
renders it intense as well as cold, and consequently painters 
are only able to employ it with a most cautious hand. 
Yellow conveys thfe idea of light, red that of warmth : if 
too much of either is present in a painting, the general 
effect is of course impaired ; but by a small over-dose of 
green, the picture is killed. 

The colour which next to green acts most powerfully on 
the nerves of the eye is violet ; after that follows blue-vio- 
let (artificial ultramarine-blue). It so happens that, among 
the pigments at the disposal of the painter or decorator, 
violet has only a set of dull representatives ; hence it is not 
quite so easy to transgress in this direction as with green, 
for to obtain a violet which is at all the optical equivalent 
of vermilion or emerald-green, it is necessary to use some 
of the aniline colours. Blue-violet or artificial ultramarine- 
blue easily gives rise to cold and hard combinations, and 
large surfaces of it are apt to appear disagreeable if the hue 
is at all intense. Skies painted with blues that are too in- 
tense are easily ruined, and misjudgments in this direction 
are not entirely confined to the work of beginners or ama- 

When the colours are arranged according to the order 
in which they exhaust the nervous power of the eye, it is 


found that green heads the list ; violet, blue-violet, and 
blue follow ; then come red and orange, and last of all yel- 
low. This is also about the order in which we are able to 
enjoy (or tolerate) positive colour in a painting ; large 
masses of yellowish hues being often recognized only as 
communicating luminosity, while hues of oi-ange or red- 
orange, darkened, are called brown, and considered as 
scarcely more positive than warm greys. From this it by 
no means follows that the introduction of large masses of • 
positive green into paintings is always to be avoided ; it is 
not advisable, unless it- can be accomplished successfully, 
and without injury to the work as a chromatic composition. 
The ability to solve this problem in a brilliant manner is 
one of the signs which indicate an accomplished colourist ; 
and, when the green is combined with blue, the task be- 
comes still more difficult and success more praiseworthy. 
On the other hand, the handling of combinations of dull 
yellow, brown, grey, or bluish-grey is much easier, and, in 
fact, constitutes the first step by which beginners should 
approach more positive colour. 

As stated above, hurtful contrast is one of the common- 
est reasons that render combinations of colour bad : as ex- 
amples, we have orange and carmine, yellow and yellowish- 
green, green and cyan-blue. All the colours in the con- 
trast-diagram. Fig. 131, that are less than 80° or 90° apart 
are more or less under the dominion of harmful contrast. 
These effects become still more pronounced when the col- 
ours have luminosities decidedly differing from those found 
in the spectrum, where yellow is the brightest and violet 
the darkest. (See Chapter III.) There are various modes 
of mitigating to a considerable extent the effects of hurtful 
contrast : a common one is to make one of the contending 
colours darker than its rival, or to assign to it a much 
smaller field ; a third colour situated at a considerable dis- 
tance in the chromatic circle is also sometimes added. 
Thus, for example, yellow and yellowish-green are im- 


proved by adding to the conibination a small quantity of 
violet or purplish-violet ; green and cyan-blue in the same 
way are helped by the addition of purple or orange. 
Harmful contrast in the matter of colour may also some- 
times be concealed by strong light-and-shade effect, or by a 
large amount of gradation, which tends to enable all col- 
ours to maintain themselves against its influences ; beauty 
and variety of form also to some extent mask its effects. It 
may be added that apparent truth to nature sometimes 
causes harmful contrast to be overlooked or pardoned ; on 
the other hand, soiled or impure-looking tints, contradiction 
of nature either in colour or form, and indecision'of hand- 
ling, all are causes that intensify its action. 

A combination may also be poor because the actual in- 
tensities of the two colours differ too much, although then- 
position in the chromatic circle is advantageous ; thus, for 
example, the introduction of a quantity of chrome-yellow 
into a design produces harsh effects, which would be avoid- 
ed by the use of the more modest yellow ochre. When 
this trouble exists in a high degree, the offending colour 
usually catches the eye of the observer at first glance, and 
before any of the other colours are fairly seen. A delicate 
colour-emphasis is by no means easy of attainment, and its 
lack produces on a chromatic composition effects quite analo- 
gous to the want of the corresponding quality in speaking 
or reading. 

A combination may also be poor because it contains no 
decided representative of the warm colours, including under 
this term yellow and purple and the colours situated be- 
tween them. There is reason to believe that the warm col- 
ours actually preponderate in the most attractive and bril- 
liant chromatic compositions ; however this may be, it is 
certain that compositions founded almost exclusively on 
the colder colours, such as yellowish-green, green, blue, and 
violet, appear poor, and are apt to arouse in the mind of 
the beholder a feeling of more or less dissatisfaction. The 


general preference for warm colour is somewhat analogous 
to that displayed for articles of food that have a tendency 
rather to sweetness than the reverse ; but, however inter- 
esting an inquiry as to the causes which during past ages 
have brought about this result might be, it evidently would 
not help us much in our present studies ; we are obliged to 
accept the fact, and make as good use of it as our skill and 
feeling for colour permit. 

Thus far we have considered the effects that are pro- 
duced when the colours are used in pairs ; they may, how- 
ever, also be employed in triads. The studies that we have 
made with the contrast-diagram. Fig. 130, render it easy 
for us to select a series of triads that are free from the de- 
fect of hurtful contrast ; for this will be the case with all 
colours that are equally distant from each other in the dia- 
gram, or are separated by an angle of 120° ; and, when we 
examine the triads that have been most employed by artists 
and decorators, we find that this principle has actually been 
more or less closely observed. The triads that have been 
most extensively used are : 

Spectral red, yellow, blue ; 
Purple-red, yellow, cyan-blue ; 
Orange, green, violet ; 
Orange, green, purple-violet. 

In the second triad the colours are almost exactly 120° 
apart ; in the first the yellow is a little less than 90° from 
the red, and in fact forms with it a doubtful combination, 
which is only rendered good by the presence of the blue. 
In the third triad the orange and violet are about 90° apart, 
but are nearly equally distant from the green, and form, 
both of them, a good combination with it. 

In the selection of colours for these triads a second prin- 
ciple also seems to have guided the choice of artists : there 
is an evident wish in each case that two out of the three 
should be warm colours, and in two of the triads the matter 


of contrast has been somewhat sacrificed for the further- 
ance of this end. The desire to satisfy both these condi- 
tions of course greatly limits the number of triads, as an 
examination of the contrast-diagram shows ; and, in point 
of fact, in certain inferior triads which have been employed, 
one or both of these principles have necessarily to a consid- 
erable extent been neglected. 

Carmine, yellow, and gi'een 

was, according to BrUcke, a triad much used during the 
middle ages, though to us the combination is apt to appear 
somewhat hard and unrefined. Here we have two warm 
colours, but the matter of contrast is also twice sacrificed ; 
that is, slightly in the case of the carmine and yellow, and 
more with the yellow and green. 

Orange-yellow, violet, and bluisli-green 

is an example of a combination which is poor not from defect 
of contrast, but because it contains two cold colours, one of 
them being the coldest in the chromatic circle. 

Vermilion, green, and violet-blue 

is a triad which has been extensively used in some of the 
Italian schools. At first sight we have here apparently two 
cold colours ; but, as the green was olive-green, the com- 
bination really amounts to 

Vermilion, dark greenish-yellow, and violet-blue, 

and corresponds in principle with those above given. 

In the employment of any of these triads in painting or 
in ornament, the artist can, of course, vary the hue of the 
three colours through the small interval without destroying 
the definite character of the chromatic composition ; and 
even small quantities of foreign colours can also be added. 
When, however, they begin to assume importance in the 
combination, they destroy its peculiar character. White or 
grey can be introduced, and is often used with a happy 
effect, particularly in the triads 


Orange, greea, violet ; 
Purple-red, yellow, cyan-blue. 

It is perhaps hardly necessary to d-well on the advan- 
tages of studying the relations of colours to each other by 
the use of pairs and triads, before more complicated arrange- 
ments are attempted. Many of the pairs furnish 'opportuni- 
ties for the construction of beautiful chromatic composi- 
tions, and the practical study of colour in pairs and triads 
can not be too strongly urged. In constructing a chromatic 
composition, it is also of the first importance to determine 
at the outset what the leading elements are to be ; after 
this has been done, it will be comparatively easy to see 
what variations are allowable, and what are excluded. The 
most impressive and beautiful compositions are by no means 
those that contain the most colours ; far more can be at- 
tained by the use of a very few colours, properly selected, 
varied, and repeated in different shades, from the most 
luminous to the darkest. 

We have now examined to some extent the good and the 
poor combinations of colour, and it may be as well to add 
a word with regard to the balance of colour ; for it is desir- 
able that we should be able not only to select our colours 
properly, but also to provide them in quantities suitable for 
the production of the best effect. It has been a common 
opinion among English writers on colour, that the best 
result is attained by arranging the relative areas of the 
colours in a chromatic composition in such a way that a 
neutral grey would result if they all were mixed together. 
It is quite true that, if the colours were portioned out in 
this manner, there would be a balance of colour in an op- 
tical sense, though how far balance in an aesthetic sense 
would be attained is quite another question. Field in his 
" Chromatics " has given certain rules for obtaining an op- 
tical balance, and assumes that optical and aesthetic balance 
are one and the same thing. For example, he states that if 


we take red, yellow, and blue, of corresponding intensities, 
then 5 parts of red, 3 parts of yellow, and 8 of blue will 
neutralize eacb other in a mixture, and produce grey ; also, 
8 parts of orange with 11 of green and 13 of purple will 
produce the same result ; likewise 19 parts of citrine {" com- 
pound of orange and green "), 21 parts of russet (" orange 
and purple "), and 24 parts of a mixture of olive-green and 
purple. These rules are based on the supposition that red, 
yellow, and blue are fundamental colour-sensations, and 
when mixed produce white, though, as we haye seen in 
Chapter IX., this is quite the reverse of being true. In a 
mixture of red, yellow, and blue, the yellow neutralizes the 
blue, since these colours are complementary, and the super- 
fluous red strongly tinges this grey or white light, which 
then appears decidedly reddish. Field's actual experiments 
on mixing colours were made by transmitting white light 
through hollow glass wedges filled with coloured liquids ; 
but it is, as we have seen in Chapter X., impossible in this 
way to mix masses of coloured light. For example, the 
light which passes through a yellow and a blue wedge placed 
in contact is merely that which is not absorbed by either 
wedge, or which both the wedges allow to pass. Both 
wedges allow green light to pass, and stop almost all the 
other rays ; but from this it is not allowable to draw, as 
Fi^ld did, the inference that yellow light and blue light 
make green light when mixed, since we know with the ut- 
most certainty that these two kinds of coloured light make 
grey or white light. Field's method gave entirely false re- 
sults, and his conclusions based on them, including his so- 
called " chromatic equivalents," have therefore for us neither 
value nor meaning. 

We return now to the proposition that the best effect is 
produced when the colours in a design are present in such 
proportions that a complete mixture of them would pro- 
duce a neutral grey. It is very easy with our present 
knowledge to ascertain what areas we must assign to two 


or more coloured surfaces in order to realize this effect. It 
is only necessary to combine, according to Max-well's meth- 
od, rotating disks which are painted with the pigments that 
are to he used in the chromatic composition. Let us exam.- 
ine this matter with the aid of a few actual examples. 
Taking the first of the triads, spectral red, yellow, and blue, 
we find that it is not possible to mix the colours in such 
proportions as to obtain a neutral grey ; the yellow and 
blue neutralize each other, and the red then colours the 
mixture reddish. The same is true of the triad carmine, 
green, yellow : the mixture will be orange, yellowish, or 
greenish-yellow, according to the proportions. In the case 
of the two triads, purple-red, yellow, cyan-blue ; and orange, 
green, violet, neutralization can be produced by mixture ; 
and, when the colours are thus arranged, the result is more 
pleasing in the first than in the second case. If we take 
triads not much used in art, we meet with similar results ; 
for example, vermilion, green, ultramarine-blue, when com- 
bined in such proportions as to furnish a grey, give a very un- 
pleasing result, the cold colours being greatly in excess. But 
it is needless to multiply examples, as the reader can easily 
make these experiments for himself. If we examine the areas 
and intensities of the colours in the works of good colourists, 
we shall find that they are generally not such as to produce 
neutrality when the colours are mixed ; that, on the contrary, 
as in most of the above experiments, there is always an ex- 
cess of some p(jsitive colour. The presence of this excess 
gives a particular character to the composition, which will 
vary with the hue which is thus emphasized. Hence we 
see that this problem of the proper balance of colour is one 
which can not be solved exactly by any set of rules, but 
must be left to the feeling and judgment of the artist. 

Attempts have been made from time to time to build 
up theories of colour based on analogies drawn from sound. 
The sensation of sound, however, is more particularly con- 
nected with time, that of sight with space ; and these facts 


necessitate a fundamental difference in the organs devoted 
to the reception of sound-waves and of light-waves ; and, 
on account of this difference between the eye and the ear, 
all such musical theories are quite worthless. Thus, our 
perception for colour does not even extend over one octave, 
while in music seven octaves are employed. When two 
musical sounds are mingled, we have accord or discord, and 
the ear of a practised musician can recognize the separate 
notes that are struck ; but, when two masses of coloured 
light are mingled, a new colour is produced, in which the 
original constituents can not be recognized even by the eye 
of a painter. Thus, red and green light when mixed fxir- 
nish yellow light ; and this yellow is in no way to be dis- 
tinguished from the yellow light of the spectrum, except 
that it is somewhat paler and looks as though it had been 
mixed with a certain amount of white light. Again, in 
music the intervals are definite and easily recognized rela- 
tions, as, for example, that of the fundamental with its fifth 
or octave ; we can calculate the corresponding intervals for 
coloured light, but they can not be accurately recognized even 
by the most skillful painter. In painting we are constantly 
obliged to advance from one colour to another by insen- 
sible steps, but a proceeding like this in music gives rise to 
sounds that are ludicrous. These facts, which are suscepti- 
ble of the most rigid proof, may sufiice to show that a fun- 
damental difference exists between the sensations of vision 
and hearing, and that any theory of colour based on our 
musical experience must rest on fancy rather than fact. 



The power to perceive colour is not one of the most 
indispensable endowments of our race ; deprived of its pos- 
session, we should be able not only to exist, but even to 
attain a high state of intellectual and aesthetic cultivation. 
Eyes gifted merely with a sense for light and shade would 
answer quite well for most practical purposes, and they 
would still reveal to us in the material universe an amount 
of beauty far transcending our capacity for reception. 
"But over and above this we have received yet one more 
gift, something not quite necessary, a benediction as it were, 
in our sense for and enjoyment of colour." * It is hardly 
fair to say that without this gift nature would have ap- 
peared to us cold and bare ; still, we should have lost the 
enjoyment of the vast variety of pleasant and refined sensa- 
tions produced by colour as such and by colour-combina- 
tions ; the magical drapery which is thus cast over the vis- 
ible world would have given place merely to the simpler 
and more logical gi-adations of light and shade. The love 
of colour is a part of our constitution as much as the love 
of music ; it develops itself early in childhood, and we see 
it exhibited by savage as well as cultivated races. We find 
the love of colour manifesting and making itself felt in the 
strangest places ; even the most profound mathematicians 

* From an address by Professor Stephen Alexander, 


are never weary of studying the colours of polarized light, 
and there can be no doubt that the attractive power of col- 
our has contributed largely to swell the mathematical liter- 
ature of this subject. The solar spectrum with its gorgeous 
tints was for many years before the discoveries of Kirchhoff 
and Bunsen a favourite, almost a beloved, subject of study 
with physicists ; the great reward of this devotion was 
withheld for nearly half a century ; divested of its colour- 
charm, attracting less study, the spectrum might still have 
remained an enigma for another hundred years. 

Colour is less important than form, but casts over it a 
peculiar charm. If form is wrongly seen or falsely repre- 
sented, we feel as though " the foundations were shaken " ; 
if the colour is bad, we are simply disgusted. Colour does 
not assist in developing form ; it ornaments and at the 
same time slightly disguises it : we are content to miss 
some of the modeling of a beautiful face for the sake of 
the colom'-gradations which adorn and enliven it. 

The aims of painting and decorative art are quite diver- 
gent, and as a logical consequence it results that the use 
made by them of colour is essentially different. The object 
of painting is the production, by the use of colour, of more 
or less perfect representations of natural objects. These 
attempts are always made in a serious spirit ; that is, they 
are always accompanied by some earnest effort at realiza- 
tion. If the work is done directly from nature, and is at 
the same time elaborate, it will consist of an attempt to repre- 
sent, not all the facts presented by the scene, but only certain 
classes of facts, namely, such as are considered by the artist 
most important or most pictorial, -,or to harmonize best with 
each other. If it is a mere sketch, it will include not 
nearly so many facts ; and finally, if it is merely a rough 
colour-note, it will contain perhaps only a few suggestions 
belonging to a single class. But in all this apparently care- 
less and rough work the painter really deals with form, 
light and shade, and colour, in a serious spu-it, the conven- 


tionalisms that are introduced being necessitated by lack 
of time or by choice of certain classes of facts to the exclu- 
sion of others. The same is true of imaginative painting : the 
form, light and shade, and colour are such as might exist or 
might be imagined to exist ; our fundamental notions about 
these matters are not flatly contradicted. From this it fol- 
lows that the painter is to a considerable extent restricted 
in the choice of his tints ; he must mainly use the pale un- 
saturated colours of nature, and must often employ colour- 
combinations that would be rejected by the decorator. 
Unlike the latter, he makes enormous use of gradation in 
light and shade and in colour ; labours to express distance, 
and strives to carry the eye beneath the surface of his pig- 
ments ; is delighted to hide as it were his very colour, and 
to leave the observer in doubt as to its nature. 

In decorative art, on the other hand, the m.ain object is 
to beautify a surface by the use of colour rather than to 
give a representation of the facts of nature. Rich and in- 
tense colours are often selected, and their effect is height- 
ened by the free use of gold and silver or white and black ; 
combinations are chosen for their beauty and effectiveness, 
and no serious effort is made to lead the eye under the sur- 
face. Accurate representations of natural objects are 
avoided ; conventional substitutes are used ; they serve to 
give variety and furnish an excuse for the introduction of 
colour, which should be beautiful in itself apart from any 
reference to the object represented. Accurate, realistic rep- 
resentations of natural objects mark the decline and decay 
of decorative art. A painting is a representation of some- 
thing which is not present ; an ornamented surface is essen- 
tially not a representation of a beautiful absent object, but 
is the beautiful object itself ; and we dislike to see it for- 
saking its childlike independence and attempting at the 
same time both to be and to represent something beautiful. 
Again, ornamental colour is used for the production of a 
result which is delightful, while in painting the aim of the 


artist may be to represent sorrow, or even a tragic effect. 
From all this it follows that the ornamenter enjoys an 
amount of freedom in the original construction of his 
chromatic composition which is denied to the painter, who 
is compelled by profession to treat nature with at least a 
fair degree of seeming respect. The general structure of 
the colour-composition, however, being once determined, the 
fancy and poetic feeling even of the decorator are com- 
pelled to play within limits more narrow than would be 
supposed by the casual observer. It is not artistic or sci- 
entific rules that hedge up the path, but his own taste and 
feeling for colour, and the desire to obtain the best result 
possible under the given conditions. In point of fact, col- 
our can only be used successfully by those who love it for 
its own sake apart from form, and who have a distinctly 
developed colour-talent or -faculty ; training or the obser- 
vance of rules will not supply or conceal the absence of this 
capacity in any individual case, however much they may do 
for the gradual colour-education of the race. 

From the foregoing it is evident that the positions oc- 
cupied by colour in decoration and in painting are essen- 
tially different, colour being used in the latter primarily as 
the means of accomplishing an end, while in decoration it 
constitutes to a much greater degree the end itself. The 
links which connect decoration with painting are very 
numerous, and the mode of employing colour varies con- 
siderably according as we deal with pure decoration, or 
with one of the stages where it begins to merge into 

The simplest form of colour-decoration is found in those 
cases where surfaces are enlivened with a uniform layer of 
colour for the purpose of rendering their appearance more 
attractive : thus woven stuffs are dyed with uniform hues, 
more or less bright ; buildings are painted with various 
sober tints ; articles of furniture and their coverings are 
treated in a similar manner. 


The use of several colours upon the same surface gives 
rise to a more complicated species of ornamentation. In 
its very simplest form we have merely bands of colour, or 
geometrical patterns made of squares, triangles, or hexagons. 
Here the artist has the maximum amount of freedom in the 
choice of colour, the surfaces over which it is spread being 
of the same form and size, and hence of the same degree 
of importance. In such cases the chromatic composition 
depends entirely on the taste and fancy of the decorator, 
who is much less restricted in his selection than with sur- 
faces which from the start are unequal in size, and hence 
vary in importance. After these simplest of all patterns 
follow those that are more complicated, such as arabesques, 
fanciful arrangements of straight and curved lines, or mere 
suggestions taken from leaves, flowers, feathers, and other 
objects. Even in these, the choice of the colours is not 
necessarily influenced by the actual colours of the objects 
represented, but is regulated by artistic motives, so that the 
true colours of objects are often replaced even by silver 
or gold. Advancing a step, we have natural objects, leaves, 
flowers, figures of men or animals, used as ornaments, 
but treated in a conventional manner, some attention, how- 
ever, being paid to their natural or local colours, as weU as 
to their actual forms. In such compositions the use of 
gold or silver as background or as tracery, also the con- 
stant employment of contours more or less decided, the 
absence of shadows, and the frank disregard of local col- 
our where it does not suit the artist, all emphasize the fact 
that nothing beyond decoration is intended. Tip to this 
point the artist is still guided in his choice of hues by the 
wish of making a chromatic composition that shall be beau- 
tiful in its soft subdued tints, or brilliant and gorgeous with 
its rich display of colours ; hence intense and saturated 
hues are often arranged in such a way as to appear by con- 
trast still more brilliant ; gold and silver, black and white, 
add to the effect ; but no attempt is made to imitate nature 


in a realistic sense. When, however, we go some steps 
further, and undertake to reproduce natural objects in a 
serious spirit, the whole matter is entirely changed ; when 
we see groups of flowers accurately drawn in their natural 
colours, correct representations of animals or of the human 
form, complete landscapes or views of cities, we can be 
certain that we have left the region of true ornamentation 
and entered another which is quite diflferent. A great part 
of our modem European decoration is really painting — 

We return now to a brief consideration of monochromy, 
or decoration in a single colour. In order to avoid the 
monotony attendant on the use of a uniform surface of 
colour, lighter and darker shades of the same hue are very 
- often employed. These not only give more variety, but 
serve also as a means of introducing various ornamental 
forms, such as borders, centre-pieces, etc. Monochromy is 
advantageously employed when it is desired, on the one 
hand, to avoid the brilliancy attendant on the introduction 
of several distinct colours, and on the other the dullness 
consequent on the exclusive use of a single tone. It is 
much used in wall-painting, also in woven stuffs intended 
for articles of dress or for covering furniture, and for many 
other purposes. 

In monochromatic designs the small interval is very 
frequently employed : for example, in using red, the artist 
will employ for the lighter shades a red that is slightly 
more orange than the general ground ; for the darker, one 
that is rather more purplish. In this use of the small 
interval, regard is to be had to the hues which colour 
assumes under different degrees of illumination ; this mat- 
ter is fully explained in Chapter XVII. Monochromatic 
designs can furthermore be enlivened by ornamenting them 
with gold, either alone or in connection with a small amount 
of positive colour. The use of black and white is, however, 
best avoided, as it furnishes occasion for the production of 


contrast-colours which interfere with the general effect. 
(See chapter on Contrast.) 

In polychromy a number of distinct colours are em- 
ployed simultaneously, with or without gold and silver, 
white and black. The laws which guide the selection of 
colours in this kind of ornamentation have already been 
considered in Chapter XYII. Saturated and intense colours 
are often used to cover only the smaller surfaces ; they are 
then balanced or contrasted with colours of less intensity 
spread over proportionately larger surfaces. In purely 
decorative polychromy we deal mainly with rich and beau- 
tiful arrangements of colour disposed in fanciful forms ; 
natural objects, if introduced at all, being treated conven- 
tionally. In the composition of such designs, however, the 
artist is controlled to a considerable extent by the shape and 
size of the spaces which the colours are destined to occupy; 
the large masses of the composition in the best polychromy 
being worked out in colours of proper intensity, which 
make by themselves a broad design, over which again small- 
er designs are wrought out in the same and in different 
colours. As remarked by Owen Jones,* "The secret of 
success is the production of a broad general effect by the 
repetition of a few simple elements, variety being sought 
rather in the arrangement of the several portions of the 
design than in the multiplication of varied forms." 

In the best polychromy great use is made of outlines or 
contours ; they are employed to separate ornaments from 
the ground on which they are placed, particularly when the 
two do not differ greatly in colour. Colours that differ 
considerably are prevented by contours, on the other hand, 
from melting into each other and thus giving rise to mix- 
ture tints ; in other words, each colour is made by the 
separating outline to retain its proper position. Contours 
when used for this purpose may be light or dark coloured. 

* " Grammar of Ornament," London, 1856, 


or even black. If the ornament is lighter than the ground, 
the contour is made still lighter; if darker, the contour 
mil he still darker. In the best decoration the figures of 
men and animals, when introduced, are surrounded with 
decided contours which emphasize the fact that realistic 
representation is not intended. Contours are also made 
white or golden ; they then become an independent part of 
the ornamentation. Contours consisting of several lines of 
gold and silver, white and black, are often used to separate 
colours that do not harmonize particularly well together, 
though, considered in a large way, they may still belong in 
the compositions. These pronounced contours are never 
intended to disappear when viewed at a distance, but form 
a new ornamental element ; hence their shapes will often 
vary more or less from the form of the spaces which they 

In the richest polychromy the designs are mainly worked 
out in intense or saturated colours, along with gold and 
silver, white and black. Dark and pa,le tints are not much 
employed as such, but are produced by black or white 
tracery on the coloured grounds. Corresponding to this, 
variations of the dominant colours are effected, not by the 
introduction of new tints, but by placing small quantities 
of pure colour on a differently coloured ground ; the two 
colours then blend on the retina of the observer and give 
rise to the desired hue. For example, in a richly orna- 
mented table-cover from Cairo, the writer noticed that the 
use of a fine tracery of white on a blue ground gave rise to 
the appearance of a lighter blue, which persisted at a dis- 
tance ; in the border a pure red was made to appear orange- 
red by a tracery of yellow ; in other portions, small red 
and white ornaments on a blue ground produced at a dis- 
tance the effect of a light violet tint. 

In the superb decoration of the Alhambra, the colours 
employed on the stucco work are red, blue, and gold ; pur- 
ple, orange, and green are found only in the mosaic dados. 


The colours are either directly separated by narrow white 
lines, or indirectly by the shadows due to the projecting 
portions of the ornamentation. Masses of colour are never 
allowed to come into contact. The blue and gold are often, 
however, interwoven purposely, so as to produce at a dis- 
tance a soft violet hue ; on this ground designs are traced 
in gold and red, the gold figures being much larger than 
the red ; or, on the same ground sometimes, wiU be found 
figures in white with small touches of red. The principle 
for the production of new colours above mentioned is con- 
stantly employed : blue and white blend to a light blue ; 
blue, white, and red furnish a light violet or purple hue ; 
while red and gold mingle to a rich, subdued orange. 
Sometimes in these designs the gold greatly predominates, 
as in the " 5aU of the Ambassadors " or ia the " Court of 
the Lions "; here we find a mass of wonderful gold tracery, 
with only small portions of red and blue imbedded in it. 
On the dados the mosaic designs are often worked out in 
red-purple, green, orange-yellow, and a dark blue of but 
slight intensity, the ground being grey. Narrow contours 
of white separate the colours from the ground. To this 
series light blue is sometimes added, or we find combina- 
tions of orange-yellow, dark blue, and green or purple ; 
dark blue and orange-yellow ; or simply orange-yellow and 
small spaces of dark blue, the grounds in all these cases 
being of a medium grey. The general effect of the colour 
of the mosaics is jcool and somewhat thin ; it rests the eye 
which has gazed on the magnificent displays placed above, 
or prepares it by the contrast for new enjoyment. 

True polychromy has not been very successfully culti- 
vated in Europe since the time of the Renaissance, painting 
having to a great extent usurped its place. Hence in mod- 
ern times we find not only our porcelain, carpets, window- 
shades, but the walls themselves and whatever else it may 
be possible to decorate, covered with groups of flowers, 
figures, or landscapes, architectural views, copies of cele- 


brated paintings — all executed with as much pretended 
truth to nature as the purchaser is able or willing to re- 
ward. It is hardly necessary to add that the taste which 
produces or demands such false decoration, while it may 
have much to excuse, has but little to recommend it ; and 
it is not to be expected that any general improvement can 
be effected till the public at large learns better to distin- 
guish between genuine decoration and genuine painting. 

In decorative art the element of colour is more impor- 
tant than that of form : it is essential that the lines should 
be graceful and show fancy or even poetic feeling ; but we 
do not demand, or even desire, that they should be expres- 
sive of form in a realistic sense. Just the reverse is true in 
painting : here, colour is subordinate to form. Neverthe- 
less, its importance still remains very great, and it is trifling 
to attempt to adorn with colour that which is really only a 
light-and-shade drawing. The chromatic compositions of a 
painting should from the start receive the most careful and 
loving attention ; otherwise it is better to work in simple 
black and white. 

The links which connect designs in mere light and shade 
with works in colour run about as follows : "We have, as the 
fii'st step, pictures executed essentially in one tint, but with 
endless small modifications. In this way a peculiar lumi- 
nous glow is introduced which is never exhibited by designs 
executed solely in black and white, or indeed in any one 
tint. As examples of this kind of work we may mention 
drawings in sepia or bistre, in which the tint is varied by 
the introduction here and there of different quantities of 
some other brown having a reddish, yellowish, or orange 
hue. In the next stage the design is worked out essentially 
in bluish and brownish tints. If a landscape, the distance 
and much of the sky will be greyish-blue ; the foreground, 
on the other hand, a rich warm brown, with here and there 
a few touches of more positive color. The blue of the dis- 


tance will be variously modified, having often a greenish 
hue, and being replaced in the more highly illujninated por- 
tions by a yellowish tint. No real attempt will be made to 
render correctly the natural colours of the objects depicted, 
except as they happen to fall in with the system adopted. 
By this mode of working, distance and luminosity can be 
represented far more effectively than by the mere use of 
black and white. Designs of this kind merge by insensible 
degrees into others, where the strong browns of the fore- 
ground vanish, and are replaced by a set of tints which, 
though not . very positive, yet represent the actual colours 
of the scene somewhat more truly. The rather uniform 
bluish-grey of the distance, also, is exchanged for a greater 
variety of cool bluish tints, and faint violet and purple hues 
begin to mingle with the other colours. The yellows and 
orange-yellows become more pronounced, but decided greens 
are not admitted except in small touches, and as the local 
colour requires it ; large masses also of any other strong 
colours that happen to be present in the scene will be sug- 
gested rather than represented. In designs of this kind 
there is a good deal of room for the interchange and play of 
different hues", and they make at first sight the impression 
of being veritable works in colour. Many of Turner's earliffl- 
drawings were executed in accotdance with these methods, 
which allow the student gradually to encounter and over- 
come the difficulties of colour. The substitution of paler 
tints for the real colours of the scene, and particularly the 
exclusion of green, a colour always difficult to manage, - 
diminish the possibilities of entanglement in harsh or bad 
combinations of colour, and render more easy the attainment 
of harmony. This mode of using colour is of course con- 
ventional, and pictures of this kind are not to be regarded 
as executed in colour, in the full sense of the word. Among 
genuine works in colour, the simplest are those painted es- 
sentially with a single pair of colours, variously modified or 
combined with gi"ey ; colours widely separated in the chro- 


matic circle from the selected pair being admitted only in 
small masses or subdued tones. After these follow chro- 
matic compositions in which three colours with their modi- 
fications are systematically employed in the same manner, 
to the exclusion as far as possible of all others. The char- 
acter of these compositions will again vary according as the 
light illuminating the scene in nature is supposed to be 
white or coloured. If yellowish, the blue and violet hues will 
be more or less suppressed, the greens more yellowish, while 
the red, orange, and yellow tints will gain in intensity. Just 
the reverse will occur under a bluish illumination. The 
practice of employing an illumination of one dominant 
colour, which spreads itself over the whole picture, modify- 
ing all the tints, is very common among artists, and has 
often been successfully used for the production of impres- 
sive effects. 

Good colour depends greatly on what may be called the 
chromatic composition of the picture. The plan for this 
should be most carefully considered and worked out before- 
hand, even with reference to minor details ; the colours 
should be selected and arranged so that they all help each 
other either by sympathy or by contrast — so that no one 
could be altered or spared without sensibly impairing the 
general effect. No rules will enable a painter coldly to 
construct chromatic compositions of this character ; the 
constant study of colour in nature and in the works of great 
colourists will do much, but even more important still is the 
possession of a natural feeling for what may be called the 
poetry of colour, which leads the artist almost instinctively 
to seize on colour-melodies as they occur in nature, and af- 
terward to reproduce them on canvas, with such additions 
or modifications as his feeling for colour impels him to make. 
Thus it is often advisable to deepen nature's colours some- 
what, as in the case of the pale-tinted greys of a distance, 
or in the mere suggestions of colour often presented by 
flesh. In this process the proportions of the coloured and 


white light of nature are somewhat altered, and the col- 
oured element made more prominent. On the other hand, 
all the colours may be made paler and more greyish than 
those of nature ; yet if they retain their proper relations, 
if all are correspondingly affected, the harmony will not 
be disturbed, and a design of this character will still be, 
from a chromatic point of view, logical. If the cold hues, ,^- 
the greens and blues, are allowed to stand in full strength, 
while the warm colours, red, orange, and yellow, are weak- 
ened, a particularly bad effect is produced. 

Good colour, then, depends primarily on the chromatic 
compositions ; next in importance on the drawing, includ- 
ing under this term outline and light and shade. The want 
of good, decided, and approximately accurate drawing is 
one of .the most common causes that ruin the colour of 
paintings. Powerful drawing adds enormously to the value 
of the tints ia a coloured work when they are at all delicate, 
or when the combination contains doubtful or poor colour- 
contrasts, which in point of fact is a case common enough 
in nature. Here the artist is obliged either to reject the 
material furnished by nature, or to treat it in nature's own 
way ; that is, the drawing must be excellent and the grada- 
tion endless. Poor or bad combinations of colour are al- 
most converted into good combinations by sufficient grada- 
tion. When all the tints are pale, as in distances, it is 
almost impossible to cause them to appear luminous or bril- 
liant without the aid of delicate and accurate drawing. 
There is still another way in which the drawing influences 
the colour : perfectly clear, clean tints can be used, and will 
look well, where the same colours in a slightly soiled or dirty 
condition would be quite inadmissible. This results from 
the circumstance that helpful contrast is favoured by clean, 
even tints, while harmful contrast is strengthened by a dirty 
or spotty condition of the pigments. This is peculiarly true 
when the colours are not very positive, or are low in the 
scale ; the tints, if not clear and decided, instantly lose all 


value and become a blemish. To insure this desirable ap- 
pearance, called by artists purity, the colours must be laid on 
rapidly and with decision, and not afterward gradually cor- 
rected ; but to do this requires the hand of an accomplished 

The advance from drawing to painting should be grad- 
ual, and no serious attempts in colour should be made till 
the student has attained undoubted proficiency in outline 
and in light and shade. Amateurs almost universally 
abandon black and white; for colour at a very early stage, 
and this circumstance alone precludes all chance of prog- 
ress. The stage of advancement can, however, be very 
easily ascertained. Thus, for example, if the student can 
not execute a perfectly satisfactory study of any class of 
subjects in outline with slight shade, then there is no use 
in trying full light and shade ; if it is impossible for him 
to draw the objects in full light and shade in a rather mas- 
terly way, then there is no use in attempting colour. The 
method employed by Turner of gradually effecting the 
transition from black and white to colour has been just 
described, and is worthy of the most careful study. In 
making the first essays at colour, it is advantageous to exe- 
cute careful studies of the scene in full light and shade, 
but to note down the colours only in writing and in the 
memory. Afterward, from these notes and the black and 
white drawing, a colour-sketch may be attempted, away 
from the scene. By this means fluctuations of judgment 
about the colours and their relations are avoided, and, 
though the painting may be all wrong, it has at least a 
chance of being executed on one plan, and its frank errors 
can afterward be ascertained. Beginners when working in 
the presence of nature are apt to keep constantly altering 
the plan of the chromatic composition, in the hope that it 
will at last come right, and thus waste much time. Artists 
under similar circumstances deliberately make up their 
minds beforehand what colour-facts they will take, what 


view of the problem they will adopt, and adhere to this 
decision unflinchingly. 

After some progress has been made, the colour-sketches 
that are attempted directly from nature should be simple 
and executed with reference to colour, the element of form 
being kept quite subordinate. The very natural desire to 
make something that will afterward look like a picture is 
to be suppressed, and the work performed rather with an 
eye to the remote future. Beginners always neglect the 
large relations of light and shade and colour, dwelling on 
those that are small ; whereas the aim of the true artist is 
the production of a broad general effect by the use of a 
few masses of colour, properly interchanged and contrasted, 
variety being gained not so much by the introduction of 
new colours as by the repetition of the main chords. Va- 
rious modes of contending with this evil have been sug- 
gested. One of the simplest is making the colour-sketches 
so small that there is hardly room for anything but the 
main masses of colour, the use of small brushes meanwhile 
being avoided. Corresponding to this, it is frequently 
found that if a picture by a beginner is actually cut up 
into two or more parts, the fragments thus produced are 
better in the matter of chromatic composition than the ori- 

There are several other stumbling-blocks that are en-, 
countered with much regularity by those who make their 
first essays in colour. One of the most important is the 
tendency to employ in the painting colours that are vastly 
more intense than those displayed by nature. The colours 
of nature are usually pale and low in intensity, even when 
they make upon the beholder just the reverse impression ; 
and a practical knowledge of this fact is not to be imme- 
diately attained. Distant fields, for instance, often appear 
to be of a rather intense green. hue, when the colour actu- 
ally presented to the eye may be scarcely more than a grey 
having in it a faint tinge of green. The actual colours 


exhibited by different parts of a landscape may be advan- 
tageously studied by isolating them, according to a sugges- 
tion of Ruskin, with the aid of a small aperture, half an 
inch square, in a piece of white cardboard, held at arm's 
length. By this simple proceeding the student can con- 
vince himself of the true nature of the tints composing a 
scene, for when thus isolated they are not heightened by 
contrast. With such square patches of colour, the judg- 
ment is not so much afPeoted by the memory of the hues 
which the objects exhibit at short distances, or by what 
artists call their local colour. The local colour of grass is 
green, but if placed at a distance it may display a great 
variety of pal^ tints, scarcely even greenish ; yet owing to 
the action of the memory the distant grass stUl suggests, 
not the idea of a variety of pale delicate • greys, but of its 
local colour, green. The illustration is very old, but the 
principle applies not only to the greens, but to all colours : 
all will be altered by distance, by the brightness of the il- 
lumination or by its colour. The hues of all objects are 
also greatly affected by their surroundings, as explained in 
the chapter on contrast ; and this is another source of per- 
plexity and confusion to the beginner, who is constantly led 
astray by appearances due to this cause. The extent of the 
difficulty can be appreciated when we remember that con- 
•trast affects not only the intensity of the colour, but its 
position in the chromatic circle, and also its apparent lumi- 
nosity, and is particularly lively in the case of the pale 
colours of nature. It is as well to meet this difficulty fair- 
ly face to face, and, instead of spending all the disposable 
time in endeavoring to solve the riddles of contrast pre- 
sented by nature, to reverse the process, and occasionally to 
construct in the studio simple chromatic compositions found- 
ed on the known laws of contrast, and thus study its effects 
by experiment as well as by observation. 

The appearance of colour, as has been explained in an- 
other chapter, depends also greatly on gradation ; colour 


which is uniform appearing hard and disagreeable, while 
the same tint when gently varied becomes pleasing as well 
as truer to nature. Gradation of colour is almost universal 
in nature, and a considerable part of the education of the 
student consists in its study and practice. The uneducated 
eye feels the effect of gradation in nature and in a painting, 
but is quite unable to trace the delicate play of colour and 
light and shade on which it depends. Skill in the use of 
gradation gives the artist great power to manage large 
masses of nearly uniform colour, and an astonishing mas- 
tery over colour-combinations which inherently are of 
doubtful value. 

The enormous influence of good, decided drawing has 
already been alluded to, but we return again to the matter 
for a moment, to insist on the added lustre which all the 
tints of a painting acquire when connected with good, well 
wrought-out light-and-shade effect. The beginner can most 
easily convince himself of the great influence which the 
light-and-shade effect exercises on the colour, by copying 
the engraving of some simple subject by a master in such 
, colours as may seem most appropriate, and then comparing 
the coloring thus obtained with that of his own original de- 
signs. The selection of pigments in both cases is by the 
same hand, but it will be found that the masterly light and 
shade has given a value even to the colours, which without 
this little plagiarism they would not have possessed. 

In painting, the selection of subjects on account of their 
chromatic qualities is a very important element of success. 
If is only by experience that artists gradually learn better 
and better how to select their subjects, and the mistakes of 
beginners' in this respect are often a source of prolonged 
discouragement. Subjects which contain much green are 
invariably difficult to manage, and should as far as possible 
be avoided in the earlier stages ; green fields, green trees, 
green mountains, all need great skill if the colour is ren- 
dered with any approach to fullness. This is the reason 


that the older landscapists lowered the colour of their trees 
to a dull olive-green, and even to brown. Combinations of 
green, blue, and grey or white are very common in nature, 
but difficult to handle, and necessitate the use of an un- 
usual amount of gradation. ' From a chromatic point of 
view the combination is poor ; as seen in nature, we do not 
value it less on that account, perhaps more. It is delight- 
ful to see how much can be accomplished with elements of 
such doubtful value. Again, effects which are much de- 
pendent for beauty on very high degrees of luminosity are 
difficult, for their pale colours, when transferred to canvas 
and robbed of their natural luminosity, are apt to appear 
tame enough. In the same category we must place dis- 
tances, with their excessively pale, delicate tints. The col- 
ouring in nature seems very brilliant, but in point of fact 
the effect is produced partly by mere luminosity, and partly 
by the aid of tints differing so slightly from each other and 
from grey that the problem of imitation, either literal or 
free, is not at all easy. 

We might go on in this way adding to the catalogue of 
art difficulties, but perhaps it will be asked. What subjects , 
are easy ? The truthful answer is simply, that all are diffi- 
cult if even a moderate degree of excellence is demanded. 
The painter who wishes to excel in colour devotes his life 
to this object, and is constantly accumulating studies and 
sketches from nature of all kinds of subjects, some quite 
elaborate, others with less detail, many mere colour-notes. 
Quite often beautiful effects of colour in nature last only a 
few minutes ; these will be treasured in the memory and 
transferred to paper or canvas the next day, the sketch 
being completed only far enough to fix the facts in the 
memory of the artist. Many, experimental sketches will be 
made, not directly from nature, but with a view, as it were, 
of guessing at the elements on which certain difficult or 
evanescent chromatic effects depend, and also for the pur- 
pose of ascertaining their relations to mere light and shade. 


This varied work in colour will be accompanied by constant 
practice in black and white for light and shade, and in out- 
line for form, since bad drawing is ruinous to colour. All 
the while there will be more or less anxious study of the 
works of good colourists, ancient and modem ; and this work 
will be pushed on month after month with patient energy, 
till, after a score of years or so, the student finally, if gifted, 
blossoms out into a colourist. 


Herino has lately proposed a theory of colour which la quite different 
from that of Young. According to the new theory, the retma Is proyided 
with three visual substances, and the fundamental sensations are not three 

but six 

Black and "White. 
Red and Green. 
Blue and Yellow. 

Each of these three pairs corresponds to an assimilation or diassimilation 
process in one of the visual substances ; thus red light acts on the red- 
green substance in exactly the opposite way from green light, and when 
both kinds of light are present in suitable proportions a balance is eflfected, 
and both sensations, red and green, vanish. 

Furthermore, according to this theory, all the colours of the spectrum 
also affect the black and white substance jn the same way that white light 
does ; for example, red light affects the red-green substance and produces 
the sensation of red, but it also acts on the white-black substance, and the 
sensation of red is mingled with that of white — to a large degree. Conse- 
quently, according to this theory, the white which is produced by mix- 
tures of red and green light ought to have a less intensity than the sum of 
the separate components ; but according to the experiments of the author this 
is not the case.* For further details the reader is referred to the original 
paper, " Lehre vom Lichtsinne," Vienna, 1878. 

In ISTB F. Boll discovered that the retina contained a red or purple 
substance that quickly disappeared on exposure to light. Boll and Kiihne 
have both studied the effect of monochromatic light on this coloured sub- 
stance, and it was found that red light intensified the hue at first and after- 
ward caused it to fade slowly. The action of yellow light was slow ; green, 
blue, and violet light acted more quickly. On observations of this charac- 

* " American Journal of Science and Arts," October, 1877. 


ter Kiilme has constructed a theory of viBion. He supposes that the waves 
of light give rise iu the retina to different compounds according to their 
length, and thus produce the different colour-sensations. If three such 
compounds are thus produced, giving rise to the sensations red, green, and 
violet, then this new theory is identical with that of Young ; if there are 
five such compounds, furnishing the sensations red, yellow, green, blue, vio- 
let, then the apparatus for yellow and blue has been duplicated in the 
retina, since it can be shown that a mixture of the sensations red and green 
gives that of yellow, a mixture of green and violet that of blue. Good rea- 
sons can also be adduced to render probable the idea that yellow and blue 
are not fundamental sensations, but mixtures (compare the observations of 
Bezold in Chapter XII.). For additional information the reader is referred 
to the papers of Kuhne published in the " Verhandlungen des Naturhisto- 
rische-medicinischen Vereins zu Heidelberg, ISII-'Id." 

Ilif D E X, 

Abnormal perception of colour, 92. 

Absorption, production of colour by, 65. 

Absorption and Irue mixture of light com- 
pared, 143. 

Absorption of light by stained glass, 65, 

AgasBiz, A., observations of on colour of 
flounders, 101. 

Airy opposed to Brewster's theory, 109. 

Albert on colour-photography, 87. 

Alharabra, decoration of, 312. 

All pigments reflect some white light, 76. 

Antique glass, colours of, 52. 

Aubert on mixtures of blue and white, 196 ; 
relative luminosity of white and black 
paper, 188 : sensitiveness of eye to mix- 
tures of white and coloured light, 89. 

Bert, observations of on chameleon, 101 ; 

on crustaceans, 10. 
Bezold, prismatic colours change with their 

brightness, 181. 
Bierstadt, experiments of in colour-photog- 
raphy, 87. 
Blake, Eli, his mode of recomposing white 

light, 29. 
Blue, complement of, 177. 
Bokowa, Maria, artiflcial colour-blindness 

of, 97. 
Brewster, Sir David,'colour theory of, 108; 

discoverer of cross and rings, 47. 
Briicke, his apparatus for complementary 

coloiU'S, 161 ; observations on mixtures 

of blue and white, 196. 
Brucke''s solution, imitates sky tints, 154. 
Bunseu's experiment on colour of water, 


Calculation of number of visible tints, 40. 
Campbell, J., experiments on photographing 

colours by, 86. 
Chameleon, its power of imitating colours, 

Charts, colour, 213, 220. 
Chevreul, colour-chart of, 222. 
Chrome-yellow, spectrum 0% 76. 

Colour, abnormal perception ot, 92; appar- 
ent spreading ot, 284; balance of, 801, 803 ; 
by moonlight, 187 ; change o^ with wave- 
length, 17, 27 : changed by illtmainationt 
181 ; effect of jamp-light on, 154; grada- 
tion of, 276 ; has more than one comple- 
ment, 172 ; how affected by mingling it 
with white, 194 ; is subjective, 17 ; less 
important than form, 806 ; musical theo- 
ries oii 303 ; of vegetation, 82 ; of water, 
61; produced by absorption, 65; pro- 
duced by dispersion, 17; produced by 
electric current, 9 ; produced by opales- 
cent media, 58 ; production of by inter- 
ference, 50 ; relative luminosity of depend- 
ent on degree of illumination, 189 ; repro- 
duction of by photography, 86 ; sensation 
of, produced by white light, 92 ; value o^ 
from practical point of view, 805. 

Colour and wave-length do not change 
equally, 27. 

Colour-blindness, 95, 96; of artists, 100; 
means of -helping, 98; to green, 98 ; to 
red, 96. 

Colour-chart, Chevreul's, 222 ; of Du Fay, 
222 ; of Le Blond, 222. 

Colour-charts, 213, 220. 

Colour-combinations, bad, 292; bad owing 
to absence of warm colours, 298; bad 
ovring to intensity, 298 ; pairs, 286-299. 

Colour-cone, 216; and cyUnder, impossible 
to execute, 217. 

Colour-contrast, 235-273. 

Colour-cylinders, 215. 

Colour-diagram, Maxwell's, 224; Eood''B, 

Colour-equations, 184. 

Colour-sensations that are not fundamental, 

Colour-tbeoiy of Brewster, 108 ; of Toung, 
118 ; of Young and Helmholtz, 113. 

Colour-triangle, 221. 

Coloured li^t when bright becomes more 
yellowish, 181-183. 

Coloured photographs, indirect process, 87. 

Coloured silk and wool compared, 79. 

Colours can be too pure and intense, 80; 
combined in triads, 299-801 ; in combina- 
tion, mode of studying, 290; fandamental, 
defined, 120 ; in mixture represented by 



weightfl, 318; mixture of by binocular 
vision, 158 ; mixture of by Lambert's ap- 
paratus, 189; mixture of on retina of ob- 
server, 279; of metals, 84; of ordinary ob- 
jects due to absorption, 65 ; of pigments 
due to absorption, 65 ; of prismatic spec- 
trum, 18 ; of woven fabrics due to ab- 
sorption, 78; photometric, comparisons of 
not absolute, 190 ; prismatic, change due 
to brightness, 181. 

Colours, complementary, 161 ; explained by 
Young's theory, 176 ; by gas-light, 173 ; 
in combination, 294; of polarized light 
rather pale, 177. 

Complementary colours, by gas-light, 173 ; 
explained by Young's theory, 176 ; meth- 
od of studying with Maxwell's disks, 167 ; 
luminosity of^ 164: no fixed relation be- 
tween their wave-lengths, 175 ; of polar- 
ized light are rather pate, 177 ; table of, 168. 

Constants of colour, 30-210. 

Contours, 811. 

Contrast, 285-273; experiment with shad- 
ows, 254 ; hurtful, 297 ; intensity of col- 
ours being different, 263 ; of black, white, 
and grey, 267 ; of black, white, and grey 
with colours, 270 ; of pale and dark col- 
ours, 258-268 ; - simultaneous, 241-245 ; 
strength with different colours, 26J ; suc- 
cessive, 285-242; table of eflfects of, 245. 

Contrast-circles, 248. 

Contrast-diagram, 250. 

Cross and rings produced by polarized light, 

Cross, C, experiments of in colour-photog- 
raphy, 87. 

Carves for action of red, green, and violet 
on the eye, 198. 


Dalton, colour-bhndness of, 97. 

Dalton's eye-piece, 36. 

B'Arcy on duration of impression on ratina, 

Dark lines of spectrum, 20. 

Decoration, different kinds of, 309 ; fh.lse aim 
in, 807, 318 ; use of one colour in, 808, 810 ; 
use of several colours, 809, 811. 

Decoration and painting divergent in aim, 

De Haldat on binocular perception of colour, 

DichroosCope, Dove's, 187. 

Difiraotion grating, 23 ; Eutherfurd's, z&. 

Diffraction spectrum, 23. 

Disks, complementary, 170 ; MaxwelVs, 
109 ; rotating, used in the study of Young's 
theory, 180. 

Dispersion, production of colour by, 17. 

Dove on binocular perception of colour, 159 ; 
his comparison of effects of absorption and 
true mixture of light, 143 ; dichrooscope 
of, 137 ; his method of studying comple- 
mentary colours, 165; observations on 
relative luminosity of red and blue, 189; 
photometric experiments on revolving 
disks, 206 ; theory of lustre, 280. 

Draper, H., opposed to Brewster s theory, 

Drawing, importance of 817, 321. 

Du Fay, colour-chart of, 222. 

Duration of impression on retina, 202; in 

case of animals in motion, 203 ; in case of 

ocean waves, 207. 


Electricity, production of colour by, 95. 
Emerald -green, spectrum of, 75. 
Erythroscope, 83. 
Etchings, blending of white and black on 

retina of observer, 282. 
Eye, colour of, 58 ; more sensitive to change 

of wave-length in certain regions of the 

spectrum, 27. 

Favre, examination of colour-blind persons 
by, 99. 

Feathers, colour of, 50. 

Fechner on colours of after-images, 93. 

Field, chromatic equivalents of, 801 ; experi- 
ments on pigments by, 88, 89. 

Fixed hues of solar spectrum, 20. 

Fluorescence, production of colour by, 62. 

Foucault on binocular perception of colour, 

Fraunhofer, discovery of fixed linos by, 20. 

Fundamental colours defined, 120 ; intensity 
oi^ in prismatic spectrum, 123; Wiinsch 
on, 123. 

Fundamental colour-sensations, how deter- 
mined, 115. 


Gas-light, effects of, on colours, 154. 
Gibbs, Wolcott, on duration of impression 

of prismatic colours, 206, 
Glass, opalescent, 55. 
Glass under strain, colour of by polarized 

light, 48. 
Gold used in painting, 85. 
Gradation of colour, 276; rapid, often un- 

pleasing, 275 ; subordinate in decoration. 

Green in colour- combinations, 295. 
Grunow, William, spectrometer of, 21, 


Harris, colour-blindness of, 99. 

Helmholtz on colour-blindness, 97; coloup- 
• blind zone of normal eye, 97 ; colours of 
after-images, 93 ; experiment of with blue 
and yellow glass, 18S; on fundamental 
colours, 120 : mixtures of blue and yellow, 
190 ; mixture of prismatic colours, 111, 
126; no fixed relation exists between 
wave-lengths of complementary colours, 
175 : prismatic colours change with their 
brightness, 181. 

Helmholtz Mid Young, colour theory of, 

Helmholtz's spiral disk for after-images, 98. 

Bering's theory of colour, 324. 

Holmgren, examination of colour-blind per- 
sons by, 99. 



Fuddart, remarkable case of colour-bUnd- 

ness, 99. 
Hue, 36. 


Illumination, monochromatic, 102. 

Indigo, complement o^ 178; its real colour, 
21 ; term improperly used by Newton, 
ii>. ; unfit designation of spectral hue, ib. 

Insects, colour o£ 51, 

Interval, small, SJ78. 


Kiihne's theory of colour, 824. 

Lambert, apparatus of for mixing coloured 
light, 110 ; his apparatus used for mixing 
colours, 139 ; colour-chart of, 222. 

Lamp-light, effects of on colours, 154. 

Le Blond, colour-chart of, 222. 

Listing's experiments on spectrum, 26. 

Luminosity of colour, 3B. 

•Lustre, Dove's theory ot, 280. 


Magnus, Hugo, on development of sense for 
colour, 101, 

Maxwell on colour-blindness, 108; funda- 
mental colours, 120 ; intensity of ftmda- 
mental colours in prismatic spectrum, 
128 ; mixture of prismatic colours, 126 

Maxwell's colour-diagram, 224 ; reconstruct- 
ed, 228. 

Maxwell's disks, 109, 130- 

Mayer, A. M., Ms history of Toung's theory, 

Mayer, H., hie arrangements for contrast, 
- 260. 

Mayer, T., co'our-chart of, 222. 

Medium with which pigments are mixed, 

Melloni opposed to Brewster's theory, 109. 

Metals used in painting, 85. 

Mile, his mode of mixing colours, 139. 

Milk, colours produced by, 53. 

Mixture of blue and yellow light makes 
white, 112 : of colours by binocular vision, 
158; of coloured rays of prismatic spec- 
trum, 126; of different-coloured light, 
124 ; of pigments, theory and effects, 141 ; 
of prismatic colours. 111 ; of white and 
coloured light. 31, 32. 

Monochromatic Illumination, 103. 

Monoehromy, 808, 310. 

Moonlight, colour of, 187. 

Morton, H., thallene described by, 63. 

Mountains, distant, colours of, 59. 

Miiller, J. J., on randamental green, 121 ; 
green light in mixture produces a whitish 
tint, 119: mixture of prismatic colours, 

Newtotfs diagram for the colour-blind, 105; 

for lamp-light, 105. 
Newton's experiment, IB. 

Niepce de Saint-Victor's experiments on 

photographing colours, 86. 
Nitrate of potash, colours oi^ in polarized 

hght, 47. 
Nobert, difiraction grating of, 23. 
Normal spectrum, 24, 25; appearance oi, 


Painting, first practice, 318. 

Painting and decoration divergent in aim, 

Painting Mid drawing, connecting links, 314. 

Pettenkofer's process, 58. 

Pfaff, experiment of on optic nerve with 
dectricity, 9. 

Phosphorescence, colours of, 64. 

Photographs, instantaneous, peculiarity of; 

Photography, coloured, thus fer a failure, 86. 

Pierce, Charles, darkened red becomes more 
purphsh, 185; flmdamental green, 120; 
observation on colour-blindness, 96 ; pho- 
tometric researches of, 41, 

Pigments, action of light on, 88; appear- 
ance of affected by medium, 77 ; compara- 
tive luminosity of, 75 ; only three abso- 
lutely essential, 108 ; peculi^ properties 
of influence their mixtures, 124 ; used for 
set of complementary disks, 179, 

Pigments and stained glass compared, 78. 

Pisko, F. J., on fluorescence, 68. 

Plateau on duration of impression of .col- 
oured light on retina, 206; photometric 
experiment of, 305, 

Platino-cyanide of barium used for fluores- 
cence, 63. 

Polarization, production of colour by, 48. 

Polarizing apparatus, simple, 44. 

Polychromy, 811. 

Pouchet, observations of on colour ol floun- 
ders, 101. 

Prayer on colour-blindness, 97, 98. 

Prismatic colours, mode of isolating, 19. 

Prismatic spectrum, 18. 

Purity of colour, 82. 

Purkinje, relative luminosity of warm and 
cold colours dependent on the degree of 
illumination, 189. 

Purple, how produced, 28. 

Eagona Scina. apparatus of for contrast, 257. 

JRecomposition of white light, 28. 

Eed, sensation of, more intense when green 
and violet nerves are fatigued, 118. 

Red light, action of on green nerves, 117. , 

Eeflection, by polished surfaces, 11 ; by 
rough surfaces, 13 ; by water, 12 ; of col- 
oured light by rough surfaces, 18 ; of light, 

Eegnault on binocular perception of colour, 

Retina, 10. 

Eood on binocular perception of coloui^ 
159 ; colour-blindness produced by a shock 
to nervous system, 95 ; coloured spaces 
in spectrum, 23, 24; colours corresponding 



to certain wave-lengths, 26; comparison 
of eflfectB of absorption and true mixture 
of light, 146 ; complementary colours by 
lamp-light, 178; complementary disks, 
171: complement of red, 164; contrast- 
circles, 248: contrast-diagram, 250; esti- 
mation of the coloured spaces in the pris- 
matic spectrum, 22 ; effects of gas-light 
on colour, 156 ; experiments on darkened 
pigments, 185, 188 ; experiments on pig- 
ments, 90 ; expei-iments on subjective 
colours, 94 ; grey has a tendency to blue, 
191; luminosity of pigments, 85; method 
of comparing the luminosity of white and 
coloured sumces, 84 ; mixtures of white 
and coloured light, 197: peculiarity of 
thin layers of pigments, 199 ; position of 
pigments In normal spectrum, 38 ; quan- 
titative analysis of white hght, 41 ; reflect- 
ing power of black disks, 134 ; reflection 
of coloured light from coloured surfaces, 
149; size of coloured spaces in normal 
spectrum, 24; saturation-diagram, 283; 
time necessary for perception of colour, 
102 ; wave-length corresponding to differ- 
ent colours, 26, 

Eutherfturd, observations of on blue of the 
spectrum, 121 ; prismatic colours change 
with their brightness, 181. 

fiutherfurd^s automatic spectroscope, 8T ; 
difitaction grating, 28, 26 ; diffi-action 
plates, 88. 

Buskin on mixing colours, 140 ; on colour- 
gradation, 278. 


Santonin, colour-blindness produced by, 95. 

Saturation-diagram, Rood^e, 288. 

Schelske on colour-blind zone of normal 
eye, 97. 

Beeoeck's observations on colour-blindness, 

Seguin on colours of after-images, 93. 

Belenlte, colours of in polarized Hght, 44. 

Shadow conftjspd with reflection, 15. 

Sfaells, colours of, 51. 

Simler's erythroscope, 88. 

Sky, colours of, 58. 

Small intervals, table of, 274. 

Smoke, opalescent colours of, 65. 

Solar spectrum, 18. 

Soap-bubbles, colours of; 49 ; finely pamt- 
ed, 46. 

Spectra due to chloride of chromium, 72. 

Spectrometer, 21. 

Spectroscope, 20. 

Spectnim, ditfraction, 28. 

Spectrum due to blue glass, 70 ; to green 
glass, ib. ; to green leaves, 82 ; to red 
glass, 66 : to smalt paper, 75 ; to stained 
glass varies with thickness of glass, 71. 

Spectrum, normal, 28 ; appearance of, 122 : 
normal and prismatic compared, 28; of 
orange glass, 69 ; prismatic, 18. 

Stained glass, colour transmitted by, 16 ; 

and pigments compared, 78. 
Stokes, researches of on fluorescence, G2. 
Successive contrast, 285-242. 
Sugar, colours of in polarized light, 46. 
Sulphide of barium, phosphorescence o^ 64; 

of calcium, ib. ; of strontium, ib. 
Sunset colours, normal series, 61. 

Table of fixed Unes in solar spectrum calcu- 
lated to 1,000 parts, 22. 
Tables of colours in pairs, 286-291. 
Tait, colour-blindness produced by fever, 95. 
Tartaric acid, colours of in polarized hght, 46. 
Thallene, fluorescence of, 68. 
Theories of colour, recent, 824. 
Thin flhns, colours of, 49. 
Translucency, 15. 
Transmission of light, 15, 

Uranium glass, for production of fluores- 
cence, 62. 


Vegetation reflects red light, 88. 

Veins, colours of, 58. 

Velvet, colours of, 79. 

Vermilion, specb-um of, 76. 

Vierordt's photometric researches on the 

spectrum, 83. 
Vision, theory of; 11. 
Von Bezold, observations of on darkened 

prismatic spectrum, 183. 


Warm and cold colours, proportion of in 

white light, 42. 
TVave-Iength made greater In fluorescence, 

Wave-length and colour do not change 

equally, 27. 
Waves of hght produce sensation of colour, 

White lead on dark ground appears bluish, 

White light reflected from surfiicea of pig- 
ments, 76. 
Window-glass, old, colours of, 52. 
Woinow on colour-blind zone in normal eye, 

Wollaston noticed fixed lines, 20. 
Wiinsch on fundamental colours, 122. 

Yellow, complement of, 177 ; ftom a mix- 
ture of red and green light, not very bril- 
liant, 116. 

Young, colour theory ofi 118. 



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" Professor Mayer has invented a series of experiments in Light wliich are 
described by Mr. Barnard. Nothing is more neoeaeary for sound-teaching than 
experiments made by the pnpil, and this book, by considering the difficulty of 
costly apparatus, has rendered an important service to teacher and student alike. 
It deals with the sources of light, reflection, refraction, and decomposition of 
light. The experiments are extremely simple and well suited to young people." 
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"This work describes, in simple language, a number of experiments illus- 
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A Series of Simple, Entertaining, and Inexpensive Experiments in the 
Phenomena of Sound, for the Use of Students of Every Age. 


Professor of Physics in the Stevens Institute of Technology; Member of the 
National Academy of Sciences, etc. 

Uniform with "LIGHT," first volume of the Series. 

Neat 12mo volume, fdlly illustrited. . . Cloth, price, $1.00. 

"The object of the volume is to present the leading phenomena of Sound in a 
simple and entertaiuing manner, by the use of such materials as are almost every- 
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for himself. To present the elements of an abstruse subject in such a way as to 
make the exposition easily comprehensible by a mind not specially trained lu 
it, and at the same time correct and satisfactory from a scientific point of view, 
is one of the most difficult undertakings in the v/ork of an instructor. Add to 
this the task of bringing the experimental illustration of a science like that of 
acoustics, which requires such refinement in the apparatus and its manipulation, 
within the resources of every one, and we have the difficulty very greatly in- 
creased. Professor Mayer's well-lmown experimental skill has enabled him to 
accomplish the work in an admirable manner, and be has laid under obligation 
to him not only the student and the amateur experimenter, but the teacher, who 
will derive many valuable suggestions as to hie own work from this little volume. 
The subject is arranged in a very clear and methodical manner, and treated in a 
vivacious and entertaining style. The experiments, many of which are novel, 
unite extreme simplicity with elegance of conception and scientific precision, 
and can not fail to interest and stimulate the minds of the students into whose 
hands the volume may fall. The illustrations, which are Bumeroua, are ex- 
cellently done, and give the book a very attractive appearance."— ^mericon J&ar- 
nal (if Science and Arts. 

" It would really be difficult to exaggerate the merit, in the sense of consum- 
mate adaptation to its modest end, of this little treatise on ' Sound.' It teaches 
the youthful student how to make experiments for himself, without the help of 
a trained operator, and at very little expense. These hand-books of Professor 
Mayer should be in the hands of every teacher of the young." — 2^€W York Sun. 

" An admirably clear and interesting collection of experiments, described with 
just the right amount o>abstract information and no more, and placed in pro- 
gressive order. The recent inventions of the phonograph and microphone fend 
an extraordinary interest to this whole field of experiment, which makes Pro- 
fessor Mayer's manual especially opportune." — Boston Courier. 

D. APPLETON & CO., 549 & 551 Broadway, New York.